A wide range of institutions and individuals are responsible for the care of cultural collections. Libraries, archives, record centers, museums, historical societies, and private collectors hold a variety of materials in different formats and media types. Virtually all are prone to natural deterioration over time. .
The terms "preservation" and "conservation" are sometimes confused. The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) defines preservation as:.
"The protection of cultural property through activities that minimize chemical and physical deterioration and damage and that prevent loss of informational content. The primary goal of preservation is to prolong the existence of cultural property.".
Conservation is a more specific term, referring to the physical treatment of individual items, usually after some damage has occurred. Preservation is a broader term, concerned with reducing or preventing damage in order to extend the life expectancy of collections. How can this be accomplished?.
Many of you have seen items in your collection that are fragile or brittle, faded or discolored, broken, unusually spotted, or sticky. You might ask "when did the damage occur? what caused it?" More importantly, "how could it have been prevented?" Often such questions have no single, concrete answer. The causes of collection deterioration are varied and sometimes complex; they include poor manufacture, improper storage, rough handling, and pests.
Why do collections deteriorate? Why is preservation important?.
We need to start building an understanding of deteriorating collections so that we may begin thinking about steps that can be taken to preserve them. .
One reason collections deteriorate is "internal or inherent vice," caused by weakness in the chemical or physical makeup of an object introduced during its manufacture. This is the fundamental problem you face as you begin to consider the preservation of collections.