The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 20, Number 3
Aug 1996


Welcome Allies: Vendors, Librarians, and the Public

by Nancy Carlson Schrock

The growth of the preservation field has depended not only on funding and training, but also on the availability of the materials, supplies, tools, and equipment that make it possible to store and treat library and archival collections. During the early days, these needs were largely met by specialty companies like Talas, Process Materials and Hollinger, whose staff worked closely with librarians and archivists to develop standard products like the document cases and record storage boxes that now line the shelves of so many institutions. The seventies also saw the establishment of more consumer-oriented companies such as Light Impressions for photographic preservation and University Products for library and archives preservation. During the eighties and nineties, the number of firms offering general archival storage supplies and those selling more specialized conservation tools and materials has increased. The "Supplies and Services" column of Abbey Newsletter, edited by conservator Elizabeth Morse since 1994, has tracked many of these product developments.

Collaboration between customers and vendors has always been close, especially among vendors of bookbinding supplies. For example, the Harcourt Bindery in Boston has supplied local librarians and binders with adhesives, papers, and other materials for many years. Marbler and binder Don Guyot provides supplies through his firm, Colophon Books. Cindy Mowery has worked with Washington area book conservators to develop the product line for BookMakers. Karen Crisalli of Bookbinder's Warehouse is the current president of the Guild of Book Workers. Such collaboration has insured an expansive, high quality line of bookbinding tools, equipment, and supplies for the American market, as seen in the Guild of Book Workers Supply Directory.

The larger vendors of preservation products also have ties, both formal and informal, with the library, archives, and conservation communities. Abby Shaw, former executive director of the Conservation Center (CCAHA) in Philadelphia, joined Archivart in 1988. When Gaylord set up its archival product line in 1992, they formed an archives Advisory Committee and hired conservation consultant Nancy Schrock to provide an independent preservation Help Line twice a week. Preservation Products Unlimited collaborated with archival consultant Anne Diffendal when they expanded their line in 1995. Vendors use the conferences of ALA and SAA, the standards meetings of the Guild of Book Workers, and meetings of other specialty groups like the College Art Association to exhibit their products and also to talk with customers.

During the nineties, vendors have increased their marketing outreach in response to an increased interest in preservation among small libraries, museums, historical societies, churches, and corporations. These customers typically lack the expertise of a conservator or preservation administrator and increasingly rely on product literature to provide guidance. Some vendors have responded with more user-friendly catalogs filled with "Helpful Hints" and "Technical Tips." Several are offering free booklets on specific topics. While oriented toward the novice, these publications can also prove useful for workshops and staff training.

Free literature* currently available includes:

Archival Products, A Division of Library Binding Service
P.O. Box 1413, Des Moines, IA 50305-1413 (800/526-5640)

Archival Products News 1992-present, published quarterly

The newsletter is a mix of LBS product information with short articles by familiar names in preservation. Examples of articles that would be useful for training include "Tips on Preserving Scrapbooks," "Mold Fighting on a Tight Budget," "Tips on Preserving Photographs," and "Handle with Care, The Proper Way to Treat Books."

Conservation Materials Ltd.
1395 Greg St., Ste. 110, Sparks, NV 89431 (800/733-5283)

The Emergency Care Booklet for Your Family Possessions

This 12-page booklet, written by conservator Scott Haskins, gives basic advice for the homeowner who is confronted by a disaster, including earthquakes. (The back cover is an ad for Quake Wax.) Include $1.00 for postage and handling if no other items are ordered.

Conservation Resources International
8000-H Forbes Place, Springfield, VA 22151 (800/634-6932)

A Collector's Preservation Checklist
Photographic Portfolio Checklist
Time Capsules, the Do's and Don'ts

These three pamphlets were prepared by Mark Vine of Conservation Resources (UK) and are available in the United States from Conservation Resources International.

Gaylord Brothers
PO Box 4901, Syracuse, NY 13221-4901 (800/448-6160)

Gaylord Pathfinder No. 1: An Introduction to Preservation
Gaylord Pathfinder No. 2: Archival Storage of Paper
Gaylord Pathfinder No. 3: Archival Storage of Photographic Materials
Gaylord Pathfinder No. 4: An Introduction to Book Repair

These booklets provide technical guidance when selecting storage materials or beginning a book repair program.

Light Impressions
439 Monroe Ave., PO Box 940, Rochester, NY 14603-0940 (800/828-6216)

Care & Storage of Color Slides
Cutting Window Mats by Hand
Mounting Techniques; Aid for the Family Archivist
Tips for Proper Negative Storage

Light Impressions was the first vendor to produce free instructional brochures for preservation procedures, beginning in 1978. These 4-page illustrated sheets cover topics of interest to photographers and collectors of photographs.

University Products has not produced any original publications, but their most recent catalog offers free copies of technical leaflets produced by such institutions as NEDCC, SOLINET, and the Commission on Preservation and Access.

Coupled with the development of publications that reach out to the public, companies are repackaging selected products into user-friendly "kits," often with instructions. Examples of these are:

Archivart Quilt Storage Kit (Archivart, A Division of Heller & Usdan, Inc.)
The Five Best Hollinger Products for the Private Collector or Family Archivist (The Hollinger Corporation)

The index in the new University Products Catalog lists eighteen kits. Conservation Materials Ltd., a long-time supplier of materials, tools, and other products for the professional conservator, has brought out a product line for the collector, The Museum Care Collection, which includes a "Master Mending Kit" for porcelain, china, glass, and pottery. Gaylord offers free kits for workshop instructors, based on products described in Pathfinders 2 and 3. Archival Products (LBS), and University Products advertise that they will supply samples for workshops.

Many of the publications and kits are not oriented toward librarians or archivists, but toward collectors and the general public in response to the current upsurge of interest in conservation. An article on the perils of "magnetic albums" appeared in the New York Times two years ago and was picked up by other newspapers across the country. The response was immediate concern. Martha Stewart, the Discovery Channel, and the Home Marketing Channel now all offer advice. Creative Memories, the "Tupperware" success story of the 90s, has several thousand representatives who invite friends into their homes to learn about preserving photographs and making "archival" albums.

Such enthusiasm creates a market for products and a potential for misinformation. New mail order companies are offering scrapbook supplies and entrepreneurs are repackaging products for resale in smaller quantities for the consumer. The term "archival" is now good marketing and can be found on products in discount stores. Many of these new companies do not have the traditional ties with the preservation community.

For preservation librarians and conservators, a growing market can mean a more knowledgeable and supportive public, more competition among vendors, and the development of new products and instructional materials. But it also means that it will require greater vigilance to be sure that these new products have more than an "archival" tag applied by a marketing department. Librarians have worked for many years to improve the quality of product information. In 1990, the Library/Vendors Task Force of ALA PLMS, chaired by John Boral of B2B Direct, published a "Glossary of Common Preservation Terms" (ALCTS Newsletter 1:2; reprinted in the current catalogs of Gaylord and University Products). NISO Standards Committee SS, chaired by Mark Roosa of the Huntington Library, is completing the first draft of Guidelines for Preservation Product Information. This standard will list the data elements to be used when describing products for the storage, binding, and repair of library materials. It will also include a glossary in an effort standardize terminology.

The preservation marketplace is becoming more specialized in response to conservators, while becoming more consumer-oriented in response to demands from the general public. It remains more important than ever that librarians and archivists communicate directly and often with their vendors so that their needs are also met.

*Please note that I included vendors of products and not vendors of services (i.e., commercial binders, microfilmers, conservation centers) who also produce valuable literature, nor did I include the free literature available from non-profit institutions like AIC or state preservation services. These too would be useful to compile. I would appreciate learning of any free vendor publications (other than catalogs) that I might have missed. My phone/fax number is 617/721-5927.

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