Skip to Content

Preservation vs. Conservation

What's the Difference?


A variety of activities associated with the care and maintenance of records
or collections so that they will remain available for access by future

Preservation activities include:

  • Environmental monitoring
  • Proper shelving and archival quality housing materials
  • Protection from light and moisture damage
  • Training on proper care and handling
  • Developing policies regarding security, researchers, vault access
  • Disaster planning / emergency preparedness for collections


The physical treatment of records. The application of techniques and
materials to physically strengthen and chemically stabilize records, ideally
as part of an overall preservation plan for your record holdings.

Conservation activities include:

  • Surface cleaning, mending tears, flattening
  • Removal of damaging fasteners
  • Washing to reduce acidity (if possible, and only after careful testing.)
  • Alkalizing to protect from future formation of acidity (if deemed necessary.)
  • Binding repair, rebinding, or post-binding (after careful consideration of the
    historical significance as an artifact, and the condition of the original binding.)

When Planning a Treatment Project for your historic records

You should always discuss a conservation treatment plan with your conservator before proceeding, in order to:

  • consider and discuss the record book's value as a key historic artifact for your town 
  • decide what your goals are for future access to the records
  • discuss what treatment options are appropriate or necessary for each item 
  • fully understand what conservation treatment steps will be taken and why
  • learn about the qualifications and experience of the individual(s) who will be working on your material
  • be sure that your vendor provides full disclosure about products and methods used, and does not use proprietary processes or materials.