A Critical History of Preservation: A Study of Preservation Practices and Evolutions

Author: Garrett Channell
Major: History
Approved: Spring 2019
Status: Completed

Archivists and librarians have a vital position in preserving materials for future generations. This takes several forms, from conserving and repairing damaged items, to having disaster plans in case of fires, flooding, etc. This is an important topic for historians, who are constantly needing access to primary sources. With this project, I intend to study the history of preservation in libraries, archives, and museums. I will explore what various methods of preservation have been used over the past few decades. I will study which of these methods have become popular, which ones have become outdated, and what institutions have used which methods. My project will be split into two parts, the first being a literature review of various books written on preservation from its earliest iterations to books written in the “digital age.” After I complete this review, I will write a research paper based on my findings from these readings, and a survey I will conduct of local museums, libraries, and archives. I will interview the directors and ask them about their practices within their institutions. The topic will be shaped by the information I gather, but the main goal will be to ask these findings a question. Potential questions could be: What are popular approaches to preservation, how have they changed over time, and why have these methods remained popular? Has preservation changed over time, or has it remained the same with different terminology? The research question will be more interpretive and allow for an analysis of the field from a broader point of view than the review will. The goal of this research is to explore the history of preservation and the nature of the field as examined through how it has evolved over time.