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class 1 lesson plan

Introduction

Overview

The primary purpose of this class is to provide an overview of, and historical context for, the preservation of cultural heritage in its broadest sense and the preservation of collections more specifically. Why do we preserve collections? What is the cost of not preserving our cultural heritage? What have we learned from history? While the emphasis will be on library and archival collections, the basic principles here apply to cultural sites, museum artifacts, and other “nonlibrary” materials.

The lesson is divided into four parts:

Part I: Overview. This section will familiarize students with the history of preservation, concentrating specifically on the development of professional preservation programs in libraries and archives in the United States during the 20th century. Through guided discussion, students will define “preservation” and learn how it relates to, yet is different from, “conservation” and “restoration.” Students will also be introduced to the concept of preserving the artifact and/or preserving the information. A crucial issue is how to identify what information is inherent in an object or a collection. Do we preserve the object or collection at the (partial) expense of some of the information therein? How, in preserving, can we minimize the loss of information or knowledge?

Part II: Prolonging the Life of Cultural Heritage Collections. This discussion covers the methods used to evaluate collections, identify preservation needs, and select materials for preservation, as well as the different approaches to caring for collections (e.g., providing a suitable environment, reformatting, individual treatment). In addition to laying out the components of a preservation program, this section emphasizes the role of preservation management at all levels of library and archival functions.

Part III: The Challenges of Managing Analog and Digital Collections. This section introduces students to the particular challenge of preserving digital collections. The emphasis will be on differences and similarities in preserving analog and digital texts. Students will consider the various kinds of resources needed to sustain preservation of both analog and digital collections.

Part IV: Course Overview. This section performs the same function as an overture does for an opera: it introduces the major themes of the class. The overview for this course should emphasize the depth, breadth, and complexity of the preservation field.