Coming out of the Closet and the Basement (A Preservation Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Students will consider their current space and environmental issues given the described space and make suggests for how to manage this space.
  • Students will apply archival preservation preservation practice to a given situtation.


You are a new archivist at an academic library at a college that has recently grown and become a full fledged university. This library is beginning to establish an official archives. Perviously, materials were collected, some organized into two collecting rooms, such as a Rare Book room and University History room. Other materials, like the records of a local insurance company and an oral history collection, are scattered around the building in various closets. Some materials are stored in the basement that has a history of HVAC leaks and sewage backups. There are plans to have a dedicated archival space created that will have good, but not perfect, environmental controls and provided a centralized space for granting access to archival materials. This space will not be completed for at least one year, and you have regular users, including students, who access materials that are both processed and unprocessed. There are currently no policies and procedures for handling or granting access to collections. Previously researchers would be allowed to check out a key from the circulations desk of the library to visit one of the rooms. Researchers were rarely supervised. A university trustee is one such user who enjoys having their lunch in the rare book room. They say is quiet in there.


  • What major preservation issues do see for this collection before beginning a more thorough assessment?
  • What preservation related procedures and policies do you feel need to be implemented immediately, in six months and when your new space is completed?
  • Considering you have time before you new space is completed you may have the opportunity to advocate for a better preservation infrastructure to be included in this renovation. What types of preservation infrastructure would you advocate for and why?
  • How will you deal with backlash to you new procedures?


Tyler O., Walters. 1995. “Thinking about Archival Preservation in the ’90s and Beyond: Some Recent Publications and Their Implications for Archivists.” The American Archivist no. 4: 476. JSTOR Journals, EBSCOhost (accessed March 20, 2018)

Paul, Conway. 1990. “Archival Preservation Practice in a Nationwide Context.” The American Archivist no. 2: 204. JSTOR Journals, EBSCOhost (accessed March 20, 2018)

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