The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 23, Number 2
1999


Major Grant to Preserve Records of Science

The news release last April was headed "NEH Grant Supports Preservation of History of Science Collections in the Harvard University Library," but the real news it contained was that a) the grant was nearly a million dollars, b) finally there seems to be money for preserving not only the humanities but the sciences, which are equally important but generally neglected, and c) the money came from the National Endowment for the Humanities .

The news release describes the project as follows.

The Harvard University Library has been awarded a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the preservation of its collections in the history of science. The $939,000 grant will enable the University Library to microfilm 8,000 deteriorating volumes published between 1800 and 1950, building on an NEH-funded project begun at Harvard in 1997....

The project involves several of Harvard's collections, including those in the Arnold Arboretum and the Gray Herbarium; the Countway Library of Medicine; the John G. Wilback Library at the Harvard College Observatory; Tozzer Library; and Widener Library, the University's five-million volume flagship library.

In addition to a broad representation of library collections, this project also involves extensive collaboration among the staff managing these collections. Subject specialists in each library helped to identify the intellectual focus of the project and will oversee the selection of specific titles for filming. Faculty members were also active participants in shaping the initiative. Like all preservation microfilming projects, this one is important not only because it ensures the survival of information that might otherwise be lost, but also because catalog records for filmed materials are improved. Better bibliographic records make it more likely that scholars and researchers will locate information useful to their purposes....

Overall management of the project will be undertaken by the Harvard University Library Preservation Center. Processing activities ranging from physical preparation and collation to cataloging and quality assurance will take place in the Center. Reproduction will be carried out in the microfilming laboratory managed by the Harvard College Library Preservation & Imaging Services Department. The individual libraries will undertake conservation treatment as necessary, before and after microfilming. "Many years of experience give us confidence that we can produce high quality bibliographic records and microfilm for 8,000 volumes within the proposed production schedule," said Jan Merrill-Oldham, Malloy Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian in the Harvard University Library and the College Library....

The Harvard University Library is the oldest library in America and the largest academic library in the world. Holdings include more than 14 million volumes, dispersed across a system of more than 90 libraries.

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