Preservation Activities

Conservation of Books, Textual, and Visual Material

Treatments performed on documents by professional conservators vary from minimal interventions, intended to make as many items available for consultation as possible, to more extensive treatments when an item will be used for exhibition, publication or other special use. Activities range from the physical examination of new acquisitions to detailed treatments on single items.

Conservators also provide advice and support to many of the other fundamental activities of Library and Archives Canada in the form of research into conservation techniques and approaches, advice on methods of disaster preparedness and recovery, and technical evaluations of samples and products.

A conservator leaning over a document, holding a tool 
 
A conservator leaning over a painting holding a cleaning swab 
 
A conservator holding a brush, cleaning a poster 
A wide variety of material - such as books, photographs, maps, manuscripts, fine art on paper and paintings - is conserved in our laboratories.

Preservation of Audiovisual Recordings

The audiovisual preservation laboratories at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are amongst the largest of their kind in Canada. Working with specialized equipment, conservators handle all types of film, video and sound documents including numerous obsolete formats. Documents are stabilized, repaired, cleaned and inspected, and, when required, new preservation copies are made.

In September 2009, LAC began the implementation of an Audiovisual Migration Strategy to preserve at-risk audio and video recordings in its holdings. This strategy is LAC's response to the preservation crisis for audiovisual recordings resulting from aging, unreliable and obsolete playback equipment, disappearing expertise in analogue audio and video technologies, and the deterioration of physical formats (such as tapes and discs).

There are two principle directions outlined in LAC's strategy: (1) recordings will be migrated to standard digital file formats; and (2) priority for migration will be assigned to those formats most at risk of obsolescence. 

Beginning with the successful completion of a pilot project to migrate D2 videotapes to digital format, LAC is gradually increasing its capacity and experience. LAC has since fully migrated recordings from four additional formats: digital audio tape, minidisc, dictation, and wire audio formats. Work has also begun on projects to migrate recordings from 2-inch Helical, 2-inch Quad, and ¾-inch U-matic videotapes, as well as from reel to reel, cassette, disc, and acetate disk audio formats.Some of this migration work is now being done by the private sector and collaborative ventures for audiovisual preservation are being investigated. 

A conservator standing in front of a film processing machine 
 
A conservator sitting in front of a calibrating machine 
 
 
A room containing various audiovisual equipment 
Technology plays a large role in audiovisual heritage preservation

 

With approximately 530,000 hours of audio and video recordings yet to migrate, success will depend upon a concerted preservation effort over many years.

Similarly, LAC's motion picture film collection is facing the same threat of technological obsolescence and will require a comparable preservation strategy in the very near future.

Preservation of Digital Documentary Heritage

Tape cartridges with barcodes packed on shelves in the front, robot arm moving in the back.

Tape Library
(Storage for digital materials)

Library and Archives Canada's growing collection of digital documentary heritage, which includes online and Internet publications, websites, textual documents, images and audiovisual recordings, must be preserved for use by future generations. To meet the challenge of preserving digital collections in a rapidly changing social and technological environment LAC is developing a suite of Trusted Digital Repository services for its digital collection: ingest, storage, management, and access to.

Digitization

A person placing a flat document on a platform.

Flat document scanning

A significant part of the work of LAC's digitization program is carried out at the Preservation Centre. Digital imaging technicians reproduce a wide variety of archival and library material - for individual clients, Web exhibitions, and for LAC's program of mass digitization in support of its access agenda. The work is done according to standards for image quality which are specific to the type of material being digitized. Images are captured at a high resolution for long-term preservation purposes; lower-resolution versions are then created for use on LAC's web site.

Holdings Management

Holdings management involves developing policies, standards and guidelines for the long-term preservation of the collections held by Library and Archives Canada; ensuring the safe custody and security of the collections at all times and in all places; providing proper storage conditions and accommodation; surveying the collections to assess their physical condition; and developing comprehensive long-term and short-term plans for their treatment, copying and housing requirements. Preservation media specialists contribute to these activities and provide preservation advice within LAC, to associates in other cultural institutions, and to the public.

Preserving Rare 28mm Motion Picture Films

Long before the variety of video formats sparked debates over the preferred method for capturing and preserving moving images, filmmakers and distributors fought about the implications of setting a standard celluloid film size and composition. While 35mm nitrate film dominated the early development of motion pictures, there was a brief period in time when 28mm safety film was thought to have serious advantages. The non-flammable film was designed for projection in non-theatrical settings that would otherwise have been vulnerable to dangerous nitrate fires. Additionally, it was more affordable than 35mm film so this meant churches, schools and community centers could screen films in urban settings across the country.

28mm film in need of preservation copying 

28mm film in need of preservation copying

     
A conservator copying an original 28mm film, frame by frame, onto 35mm polyester film 

A conservator copying an original 28mm film, frame by frame, onto 35mm polyester film

 

The Ontario Motion Picture Bureau and the University of Alberta were two of the foremost users of 28mm in the world, creating and circulating thousands of 28mm films from 1917 until the early 1930s.Titles such as Saskatchewan's War on the Grasshopper, Making the Most of Manure and Where Does False Hair Come From? were among the informational and instructional films shown to Canadians.

Today, these same titles are being preserved by transferring them to 35mm polyester-based film by the Conservation and Preservation Copying Division at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The approximately 2,500 28mm film reels currently held by LAC represent one of the largest collections of this film gauge in the world. This 28mm film collection provides the most significant record of government-sponsored film production in Canada before the creation of the National Film Board in 1939.

Conservation Treatment of a Lithograph

The lithograph Canada Marine Works, Augustin Cantin, Montreal, C.E. (ca. 1865), (Mikan number 3020493), an item from the Peter Winkworth Collection was conserved for a Library and Archives Canada exhibition entitled "The Peter Winkwork Collection of Canadiana: Early Impressions of Québec."

When acquired, the print was adhered solidly to poor-quality, acidic paperboard, which had contributed to its overall discolouration and to the deterioration of the paper. The image was disfigured by mottled stains, abrasions and dirt. The sheet was creased in places, either during the printing process or during the mounting phase. Its corners were crushed and it had several punctures and gouges.

After several treatment options were considered, the following steps were carried out to stabilize the condition of the item and to improve its appearance for exhibition.

Before treatment 

Before treatment

 
The first step was to remove as much of the surface dirt as possible. The recto of the lithograph was dry cleaned using ground white vinyl eraser: the crumbs were rolled across the surface with a light pressure to avoid pushing the dirt into the paper fibres. 
The first step was to remove as much of the surface dirt as possible. The recto of the lithograph was dry cleaned using ground white vinyl eraser: the crumbs were rolled across the surface with a light pressure to avoid pushing the dirt into the paper fibres.

 

 
Then, the paperboard backing was removed. This task took several days, since the backing had to be scraped away cautiously, bit by bit 
Then, the paperboard backing was removed. This task took several days, since the backing had to be scraped away cautiously, bit by bit.
The final layer of the old paperboard backing was removed after immersion in water. 

The final layer of the old paperboard backing was removed after immersion in water.

 
Even after the sheet was immersed in several baths of alkaline water, controlled light bleaching was needed to further reduce the stains and discolouration. 

Even after the sheet was immersed in several baths of alkaline water, controlled light bleaching was needed to further reduce the stains and discolouration.

 
For added support, the lithograph was then relined with a thin Japanese paper and dried on a karibari, a Japanese drying screen. 

For added support, the lithograph was then relined with a thin Japanese paper and dried on a karibari, a Japanese drying screen.

Next, the abrasions, small areas of puncture repair, and the relaxed creases were inpainted with watercolours. 

Next, the abrasions, small areas of puncture repair, and the relaxed creases were inpainted with watercolours.

 
The conserved lithograph was then matted and framed for exhibition. 

After treatment
The conserved lithograph was then matted and framed for exhibition.

Date modified: