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Conservation Program

The History of Medicine Division (HMD) conservation program maintains NLM early books, manuscripts, and prints and photographs in a condition that allows their use for research and exhibition, while assuring their preservation for future users.

  • What We Do

    • The conservation program oversees the display of original material in exhibitions and the handling of material for photography, photocopying, and scanning.

    • The program provides protective housing and storage for rare material, monitors environmental conditions of storage areas, and educates staff members who work with fragile documents.

    • Items requiring conservation are either sent out to various conservation facilities or treated in the Library's small but well-equipped conservation lab.

    • A microfilming program makes possible access to texts, while protecting the originals.

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  • Conservation Treatments in the Library's Conservation Lab

    • Treatment of a 19th-century Japanese woodcut:

      Before: heavily damaged by wormholes
      Before: heavily damaged by wormholes

      After: wormholes filled with Japanese paper, tinted to match color of original
      After: wormholes filled with Japanese paper, tinted to match color of original

      Detail from Kuniyosi. Kada conducting a surgical operation. circa 1850. woodcut triptych.

    • Some steps in the conservation treatment of a 15th-century broadside:

      1. Removal of old paper lining using a conservation chemical and a soft brush.
      Step 1

      2. Removal of old masking tape using conservation tools and organic solvents.
      Step 2

      3. Reduction of acidic content in the paper by bath in purified water.
      Step 3

      4. Mending an area of paper loss using Japanese paper and a conservation adhesive.
      Step 4



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  • Contact Information

    Holly Herro, Conservation Librarian
    Phone: (301) 827-4476
    Fax: (301) 402-0872

    History of Medicine Division
    National Library of Medicine
    8600 Rockville Pike
    Bethesda, MD 20894

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