Pepperdine Libraries has concluded a groundbreaking sustainable preservation initiative that will extend the life of its collections for generations to come. The $700,000 project kicked off in 2016 when the Libraries received a generous, three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities through its Division of Preservation and Access.
The overarching goal for the project was to develop a sustainable preservation environment for the humanities materials in Pepperdine’s Special Collections and University Archives, completed in conjunction with the 2017 Payson Library renovation. This preservation environment includes sustainable preservation systems that will extend the usable life of Pepperdine’s rare and valuable humanities materials while also serving as a demonstration space for feasible, affordable preventive preservation at other medium-sized institutions.
To meet the first objective of the project, the Libraries installed a highly efficient HVAC system that brings mixed media storage conditions well within acceptable ranges of temperature (around 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and relative humidity (near 40 percent) while being conscious of energy consumption. To mitigate the risk of light damage, the Libraries installed motion-activated equipment, thus reducing the duration that objects are exposed to light. Fixtures are LED, which emits lower levels of harmful UV rays compared to other sources of light, and it is also a greener option.
To satisfy the second objective — to serve as a demonstration space for preventative preservation — in May 2019 the Libraries hosted a symposium titled “Balancing Preservation and Access in the Twenty-First Century.” The day-long event featured various experts in the field, including those involved with the Pepperdine project, sharing their experience in cultural preservation. The event was attended by more than seventy people, an audience mostly comprised of area professionals working in libraries and archives. The Libraries also met the project’s educational objective by installing a didactic graphic on the outside wall of the first-floor storage area. The text, which is in an area of the library that sees heavy foot traffic, explains the inherent threats to physical materials and the methods used to mitigate these risks. An abridged version of this graphic appeared in the summer 2019 issue of Pepperdine Magazine, the University’s feature publication for alumni, students, faculty, staff, and patrons, and the Libraries also created an infographic about its preservation work.
“We hope our project can be useful to other libraries and museums as they seek to develop sustainable environments for cultural heritage collections,” said Mark Roosa, Pepperdine’s dean of Libraries.
Other improvements to the building included a new fire suppression system as well as shelving that maximizes the square footage of the preservation environment while also ensuring solid support of all materials.
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