The Gottesman Research Library has a fully equipped conservation laboratory where the latest preservation technology is used to protect its unique collections.

The Library's conservation laboratory began operation in 1989, and expanded into larger quarters in 1993. The laboratory supports a wide range of physical treatment, from box-making to minor repair to full conservation treatment of materials from the Library's collections. Equipment includes a sink with a water filtration system for aqueous treatments, a fume hood for solvent work, an ultrasonic welder, a cast iron board shear, as well as equipment for hand bookbinding. The conservation lab also has a foster+freeman Video Spectral Comparator (VSC) for the analysis and comparison of handwriting, signatures, photocopied and printed documents.

Activities and Projects

The Conservation Department undertakes a wide range of preservation and conservation activities on an ongoing basis. The most important of these is maintaining a suitable environment for storage of Library materials 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Storage temperature is kept at 68 degrees F. and 40-45% relative humidity for all but the photographic materials, which are kept at 65 degrees F. and 35% RH.

Priority is given to the welfare of the collections as a whole, though individual treatments have not been neglected. The collections have been extensively surveyed in order to gather the information necessary for planning and decision making. Some of the projects which have been undertaken and completed, or which are still ongoing, include creating protective enclosures for fragile or damaged items which cannot be treated immediately (the Conservation Department creates on average over 2,000 enclosures of various kinds per year); repair and/or rebinding; full conservation treatment; aqueous and non-aqueous deacidification; preservation microfilming; facsimile reproduction onto alkaline paper; and polyester encapsulation.

Other activities include training Library and Museum staff in the correct ways to handle, clean, enclose, and shelve materials; consultation with the Acquisitions and Cataloging staff in making decisions concerning reformatting; the implementation of screening procedures to catch individual conservation problems in acquisition, in circulation, and during shelving; and assistance in the mounting of materials for exhibits.

The Library Conservator assesses the condition of materials requested for exhibition loan—internally and externally—and often treats materials to permit them to be borrowed and exhibited. The Conservator often accompanies loans—domestically and internationally—to ensure the safe travel, arrival and installation of Library materials at other venues.  

The Library also has a long history of involvement in cooperative and regional activities, including membership in groups and organizations concerned with conservation and preservation, participation in and presentations given at conferences, seminars, and workshops, as well as contribution of articles to publications in the field. The Library Conservator is frequently is asked to serve as mentor to advanced students of conservation science from the United States and abroad. Externally sponsored interns enjoy the use of the Library’s well-equipped studio and the extensive Conservator’s experience. 


Rhodes, Barbara J. Copy pencil. In: Media & techniques of works of art on paper. New York: Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, 1999.

Rhodes, Barbara J., and William Wells Streeter. Before Photocopying: The Art and History of Mechanical Copying 1780-1938. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1999.

Rhodes, Barbara J. “18th And 19th Century European and American Paper Binding Structures: a Case Study of Paper Bindings in the American Museum of Natural History Library.” The Book and Paper Group Annual, 1995.

Rhodes, Barbara J. Consolidation of leather bookbindings with Parylene ‘N’: some observations. Leather Conservation News Vol. 10:30-33, 1994.

Rhodes, Barbara J. Hell’s own brew: home book renovation from nineteenth century receipts to today’s kitchen chemistry; its legacy for preservation. The Paper Conservator Vol. 15:59-70, 1991.

Rhodes, Barbara J. Preservation at the AMNH Library. Conservation Administration News No. 44:3, 27-29, January, 1991.

Rhodes, Barbara J., ed. Hold everything! A storage and housing information sourcebook (general editor) New York: METRO, 1990.

Rhodes, Barbara J., ed. Hell and high water: A disaster information sourcebook New York: METRO, 1988.

Rhodes, Barbara J. The Columbia conservation internship. Conservation Administration News No. 28:9, 28, January, 1987.

Gennett, Mary. Conservation of research library collections at the American Museum of Natural History. Science and Technology Libraries Spring, 1987.

Root, Nina J. Preserving and maintaining museum library collections. In: Museum librarianship John C. Larsen, ed. Hamden, CT: Library Professional Publications, 1985.

Haas, Pamela. The conservation of photographic collections. Curator Vol. 26:89-106, 1983.