Federal Document Conservation Center
History of the Center
The road to the Federal Preservation Center (FPC) at the NLR was both long and hard. It dates back to 1934 when a small unit was established at the Collections and Services Division to provide for sanitary measures, and subsequently document restoration. Despite the primitive conservation methods and inferior performance, the specialized Library staff developed long-term perspectives including in particular a restoration center.
In 1948 the Library established a research laboratory, and in 1950 the laboratory and the sanitary/restoration unit were integrated as a specialized service. Simultaneously (and in a long-term perspective) the structure was developed: research laboratory, sanitary/desinfection team (later preventive and long-term preservation sector), restoration team.
Immense contribution to the establishment and further development of the service was made by E. F. Proskuriakova, the Collections and Services Unit leader between 1934 and 1941; Iu. P. Niuksha, service leader from 1956 to 1991; leading laboratory expert M. G. Blank (staff member from 1959 to 1989); NLR's first specialists in manual restoration E. Kh. Trei, A. G. Novozhenina; and the first specialists in mechanical restoration V. S. Plotnikova, L. K. Romanova, I. M. Zolotova, E. S. Vlasova, L. A. Savelieva.
Mechanization of manual processes has been top priority in the Service since 1950s. This is where a mechanized method to replace lost paper fragments with paper pulp was developed, implemented and distributed on a worldwide scale. The unique restoration/casting machine ROM was designed here in 1969. By the time the FPC was established the fourth-generation ROM was being operated. The staff worked out research principles and science-based processes for the laminating technique whose feasibility in restoration was extensively discussed.
In parallel, manual restoration was enriched with innovatory processes like paper consolidation with sizing compositions, de-restoration and cleaning with enzyme solutions, paper stabilization with complexions. The staff was responsible for the development, manufacturing at the Goznak factory and implementation of 37 restoration paper types in many restoration units in libraries, museums and archives across the country.
The majority of research laboratories in libraries, archives and museums have been applying our original methods of biostability evaluation and document paper durability rating. The service has been extended over the years, equipped with new instruments and machinery, providing for staff development and re-training policies. While only 33 members of the staff had higher professional qualifications in 1958, professional degrees prevailed among the center's 65 members on the date of establishment. Several dissertations were defended in the relevant subject areas. To date (since 1991) the center is led by Svetlana Dobrusina, Dr. Eng.; the prevention and long-term preservation sector by Ludmila Malysheva, Cand. Eng.; the restoration sector by Victoria Lataria, restoration expert Category A. There are five Candidate degree holders on research laboratory staff. Most restorers have long working experience and high qualifications certified by RF Culture Ministry's Restorers Attestation Commission.
The turn of the 20th c. witnessed significant staff developments in the laboratory with new members of great promise. They contributed to the development of a special biostable and durable paper for various purposes - restoration, reproduction, art, and new restoration devices, e.g. for fine protective poly-para-xylylene coating and aerodynamic forming to replenish lost paper fragments with non-water-resistant text. New processes have been developed to prevent biological deterioration of documents.
A major policy involved the development of state standards. The Service contributed for 5 state standardization projects in document preservation. In three of them the NLR acted as the steering organization. Again, the NLR is currently acting as the steering organization in the revision of state standards "Document Conservation. Basic Terms and Definitions." and " Document Conservation. General Requirements".
The new processes and development in the Service are protected with 20 USSR certificates of authorship and RF patents of invention. Members of the Service (Center) published over 500 works.
Over the years of the Service (Center) existence the NLR published 23 collected papers of the staff, including 20 issues of the "Theory and Practices of Library Book Preservation". Starting with issue 17, the range of themes and contributors was extended (the latter to include other libraries, museums and archives) with the title modified accordingly as "Preservation Theory and Practices for the Cultural Heritage".
Training policies have been enhanced over the last decade. As far back as the 1960s, members of the staff were engaged in independent lecturing, training tours of the Service for undergraduate students of the Culture Institute and Library School, or lecturing in library development courses. The Service laboratory provided a basis for graduation papers at the Forestry Academy, Institute of Pulp-and-Paper Industrial Technology, Lensovet Institute of Technology, Leningrad State University. Many graduates subsequently specialized in document conservation. Restorers and prospective conservation service leaders came for resident studies here. During the 1990s the Service operated training programs for restorers, curators, conservation service leaders. Our lecturing projects involve a number of higher schools in Saint Petersburg. Future plans involve a restoration school offering both an academic degree or secondary education.
In the period between 1994 and 1997 there were two international conferences, six All-Russia training workshops and one master class. Libraries across the countries are provided with continuous and extensive methodological and consultative support.
Activities of the Center
The above mentioned, along with NLR's original library collection preservation policy conforming to recommendations of major international organizations (IFLA, ICOM, LIBER, UNESCO) and the extensive international contacts, provided a basis for transforming the NLR's Document Conservation Service as the Federal Preservation Center (FPC) intended as an active contributor for the RF National Library Collection Preservation Program. The FPC was established on RF Culture Ministry Board decision of 20.05.98 by RF Culture Minister Order No. 341 of 22.06.98. As compared to the Service, the range of activities at the Center is wider and more diversified. They are largely focused on enhanced preservation levels for library collections in Russia. This would involve methodology, organization, coordination, training, and normative documentation. The Center provides expert examination of library collections and, in part, actual restoration. This required extended staff (from 66 to 80 members) and the changes in the functional structure.
The Center incorporates a research laboratory, preventive and long-term preservation and restoration sectors (instead of the previous teams). The research laboratory staff includes qualified chemists, microbiologists, pulp-and-paper process engineers, editor/translator, program engineer. Coordinators for Russian libraries have been added. The preventive long-term preservation sector employs technical staff (laboratory assistant and desinfectors), and the restoration sector restorers, including for binding. There is a new engineering support team responsible for equipment performance and adjustment, and Center logistics.
The objectives of the Center:
- developing and implementing an integral state policy for library collection preservation in Russia;
- developing a conservation theory for library collections;
- developing and implementing the NLR collection preservation policy;
- preparing normative documents in the field of library collection preservation;
- developing new conservation methods and processes;
- science-based conservation;
- contributing to the establishment of inter-regional conservation centers (services) for library collections, and coordinating their functions;
- providing information, methodological and practical support to conservation centers (services) for library collections and libraries operating no house conservation services; training and educational activities.
In pursuance of these objectives, the Center plans and implements research, methodological and training projects, and practical actions. Research activities involve general and primary conservation strategies, issues of topical interest for the NLR and other libraries in Russia, ongoing studies of documents in restoration; theoretical problems of conservation, restoration technologies, equipment and materials, standards; examination and assessment of conditions in terms of storage facilities and individual items, preparation of research papers and methodological guides, organization of conferences and seminars, establishment and maintenance of bibliographic database for conservation, establishment and maintenance of Internet page for conservation.
Practical actions involve monitoring storage conditions and maintaining standard conditions, preventing hazardous conditions and saving actually endangered collections, practical restoration including lamination, incapsulation, mechanized replacement of missing page fragments.
The Center policies are not restricted by such objectives. Current realities would pose new problems requiring solution. Extended range went beyond pure Russian contacts. The Center staff also contributed for the international training programs:
- 1997 - together with North West Conservation Center (Andover, US), Die Deutsche Bibliothek (Leipzig), Central European University;
- 1999 - with the National Library of Austria, University Library in Gratz (Austria), National Library of Hungary, National Library of Czech Republic, National Archives of Slovenia, University Library in Rumania;
- 2000 - with P. Getty Institute.
We will welcome cooperative agreements providing for library, archival and museum collections with colleagues and professional experts in the near and distant abroad.
Address:The National Library of Russia
36, Fontanka Embankment,
191104, St.-Petersburg, Russia
Telephone: (812) 272-55-92