The following guest post is by Jacob Nadal, Director for Preservation.
Today we are launching a new blog covering preservation at the Library, Guardians of Memory. You will hear from preservation staff on the things we do to make sure the Library’s collections endure. We will explore the ways people have recorded their knowledge and creativity across the centuries.
The Library of Congress’ mission — “engage, inspire, and inform Congress and the American people with a universal and enduring source of knowledge and creativity” – has some obvious hooks for preservation. Everyone will guess that we pay attention to the word “enduring,” but in developing our preservation program and developing the goals for this blog, the word “universal” matters just as much.
The people who care for the national collections come from all across the country and around the world. The Preservation Directorate has over 200 staff. The Library’s preservation efforts include over 100 more staff in the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center and the Digital Services Directorate. Hundreds more staff contribute by caring for the collections from the day we bring them to the Library to the moment we present them to you, whether that’s online, in the exhibition galleries or in the reading rooms.
Preservation gives us a special way of looking through the library. The questions we ask while maintaining these works reward us with distinctive answers about the intentions, knowledge, and creativity that they embody. The blog is intended to help you see the collections through our eyes by giving you the literary equivalent of a look over the shoulder of the Library’s preservation staff as they do their work.
Cicero’s quote in the Jefferson building. Photo: Jake Nadal.
Recently, I took a few minutes to walk up to the northwest corner of the second floor gallery in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson building. I wanted to check in on the panel that gave us the title for this blog:
MEMORY IS THE TREASURER AND GUARDIAN OF ALL THINGS
—Cicero, De Oratore, i., 5
When I had asked the Preservation staff what they wanted to see in a title, the suggestions included the real people who do the work, their know-how and their care. But finding titles is hard, and as I talked it through with some of our writers, we didn’t think we quite had it, and we spent a few days feeling stuck until we saw this line from Cicero.
We liked it — the Librarian often speaks about the Library as the “treasure chest” – and I liked the play of turning the emphasis to the guardians themselves, the individuals who each do their part in caring for the national memory. I felt pretty good about it, myself, but the job of a preservation librarian is basically to worry about things and be perpetually unsure. When I stopped in to take a look this morning, though, and saw the panel was surrounded by scaffolding with conservation work in progress, I decided we had it just right.
Scaffolding, and our inspiration panel, in the Great Hall. photo: Jake Nadal.