Libraries' Mellon Foundation Challenge Grant met, will help conserve collections

September 28, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Mending and protecting Penn State’s rare and fragile materials in the University Libraries’ collections has become a goal in sight, thanks to a successful funding match. Now, pursuing these future ambitions — developing permanent conservation facilities and a strategic plan to expand its capabilities and address items most in need of care — is underway.

The Libraries successfully completed a challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by raising $1.25 million in matching support to secure the foundation’s complementary $1.25 million offered in 2013. In sum, the financial resources established the Libraries’ fully endowed, full-time senior conservator position, now held by William Minter, and facilitated the growth of conservation services for endangered holdings within the Libraries’ extensive collections across the commonwealth.

“I’m thrilled that we have not only completed the challenge, but already are benefiting from the contributions of Bill Minter’s efforts since his appointment, which the grant’s initial funding made possible in early 2014,” Barbara I. Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, said. “The funds from the Mellon Foundation and the King Family Endowment have enabled the Libraries to realize a high-priority service for the safekeeping of our collections. Having Bill on board also has helped us address known and unexpected damage to materials and also begin planning for future phases of conservation, which are greatly needed.”

“Achieving full-time conservation work at the Libraries has been an exciting first step in building our capabilities, which includes sharing Bill Minter’s highly regarded expertise through staff development and student internship opportunities.”

– Sue Kellerman, Judith O. Sieg Chair for Preservation and head, Digitization and Preservation Department, University Libraries

“Achieving full-time conservation work at the Libraries has been an exciting first step in building our capabilities, which includes sharing Bill Minter’s highly regarded expertise through staff development and student internship opportunities,” Sue Kellerman, Judith O. Sieg Chair for Preservation and head of the Libraries’ Digitization and Preservation Department, added. “Conservation requires a combination of craftsmanship skills and scientific knowledge, and offering students and staff the chance to learn alongside a master conservator will help the Libraries care for its most fragile materials while passing along highly valued practices.”

One of Minter’s projects has included the conservation of a book owned by Penn State’s first president, Evan Pugh. Sadly, many books from the 1800s and 1900s suffer more damage than older, rare materials. The leather cover of Pugh’s book failed along its hinges, showing the same signs of deterioration as many other 19th-century materials, and has needed to be mended. Proper conservation treatment can insure the long-term preservation of it and other materials of similar age and condition.

Since Minter’s arrival the Digitization and Preservation Department has continued to develop the Libraries’ conservation program through the purchase of tools, equipment and special materials. “One important aspect of our program that we are looking forward to growing is the training of student assistants who can assist in the proper care and handling of library materials,” Kellerman said. “We hope to provide them with specialized knowledge to help nurture in them some of the talented expertise of conservators like Bill.”

Minter agrees. “Conservation is a field with significant impact to libraries and one where opportunity exists but skilled conservators are in short supply,” he said. “Giving Penn State students the opportunity for part-time work in a field they may not previously have considered can not only help the University restore its materials in need of attention, but can bring fresh opportunities for the next generation of conservators.”

For more information about the University Libraries’ Digitization and Preservation Department, which serves all 36 Penn State subject and campus libraries, visit www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digipres.html.

  • vertical image of man in white lab coat working on repairing book spine, viewed through book press

    Bill Minter, senior book conservator for the University Libraries, removes the deteriorated binding of a book belonging to Penn State's first president, Evan Pugh, who was an agricultural chemist. Pugh's research library is now housed in the University Libraries' Special Collections Library. More images of the Minter's rebinding process are available on... Read more ›

    IMAGE: provided by Bill Minter

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Last Updated October 20, 2015