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Friday, May 17 • 2:30pm - 4:30pm
Archives Conservation Discussion Group (BPG ACDG)

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Addressing challenges from workplace change: conservation and collection care tales of struggle and success 

Moderators: Stephanie Gowler, Amy Lubick

The Archives Conservation Discussion Group (ACDG) will host a panel presentation and discussion session addressing current challenges conservators, preservation administrators, and collections care professionals are facing in times of limited resources and shifting institutional priorities, and the tactics being employed to address those challenges. Join us for a series of talks about implementing new workflows, strategic planning and capacity-building for preservation departments, and utilizing survey tools to set priorities for at-risk collections. Presentations will be followed by a question and answer session, and a chance to share with your colleagues your own recent struggles and successes.

Panelists & Presentations:

The Orange Flag Workflow at UVA Library
Sue Donovan, Conservator for Special Collections, University of Virginia Library
In 2017 the Preservation Department at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library instigated the Orange Flag Workflow in order to track preservation review requests from special collections staff. Prior to this time, requests for review were coming via email and word of mouth, and there was concern from the curatorial staff that there was little communication about the outcome of preservation projects. We chose to use an orange flag to differentiate the flag from other color-coded flags being used (yellow, purple, etc.) and to suggest the need for preservation review (orange=alert!). During their interaction with the item, Special Collections staff fill out an orange flag with information concerning damage or housing needs and the origin of the request (circulation, classroom use, new acquisition, etc.). Then conservators assess the items marked with the orange flag, write down the actions needed, delegate as necessary, and follow up with the concerned curator when appropriate. The overarching idea was to create a streamlined process so conservators can triage items with preservation concerns as they arise.
Like any new workflow, the OFW took some time to get its sea-legs. The new workflow generated some misunderstandings about how to and who should fill out flags, as well as who would review them at what point of the process. Engaged staff were creating many more flags, and it seemed to be creating stress for other staff members. In addition, due to a staff departure, a reassessment of the workflow and consideration of how to mold it into a workable process for a solo conservator was necessary. Despite initial setbacks and the periodic recurrence of certain workflow snags, the positive impacts of the OFW have been myriad. Overall, the OFW has helped hold staff accountable for requests, create understanding of the depth and breadth of work necessary in the stacks, and build a feedback loop between conservation and special collections staff, while also providing a form of documentation. The Orange Flag Workflow has been successful in making a large amount of work manageable for a small staff, and it will hopefully be beneficial to others in a similar situation.

Nurturing a fruitful preservation program by distributing influence
Liz Dube, Head of Preservation, Hesburgh Libraries, Notre Dame University
This talk will describe how a cultural shift toward radical openness and distribution of influence has helped nurture an increasingly integrated and supported preservation program within the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Libraries. While many of us in the field of conservation are by nature perfectionists who can struggle with letting go of control, we find ourselves in rapidly changing work contexts where collaboration, flexibility, and risk taking are core values. Notre Dame’s recent collaborative preservation strategic planning and workflow documentation processes will be described, alongside musings of how a shift in perspective from responsibility and control to one of openness, relationships, and service has allowed ownership in preservation to be distributed and increasingly integrated across the organization.

Creating a Custom Survey Tool to Maximize Advocacy Efforts for Audiovisual Collections
Alison Reppert Gerber, Preservation Coordinator, Smithsonian Institution Archives
In 2016, eight Smithsonian units participated in a year-long comprehensive survey of archival audiovisual collections consisting of analog film, audio, and video. Proposed and designed by audiovisual archivists around the Institution, the survey was meant to 1) document the breadth and scope of audiovisual collections by gathering group-level data on formats, condition, and storage environments, and 2) report on areas of greatest strength and need in preservation practices as identified by Smithsonian staff. There were four components of the survey – group-level inventory, multiple-choice questionnaire, narrative staff interview, and condition assessment. Each component was designed using widely available tools, due to their general affordability and ease of use, as well as to increase potential project replicability in other institutions. Using data gathered during the survey, staff at the Smithsonian have been able to advocate for these at-risk collections in new, meaningful ways and have begun to lead new initiatives that support long-term audiovisual preservation at the Institution.

A Future Facing Preservation Programs at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Allison McGuire Olson, Director of Preservation Programs
The National Archives, like many institutions is addressing the complex challenges posed by fast-paced technological change, shifts in user expectations, and the impacts of climate instability. Our focus has shifted away from traditional preservation practices, to addressing the challenges now and in the future. This is reflected in our new Preservation Strategy, which sets out 4 strategic aims:
  • Predict, understand, and act to mitigate the risks to NARA’s Holdings.
  • As an agile Customer facing service, we will establish Preservation Programs as a leader in delivering the products and services our stakeholders need to support access to NARA’s holdings.
  • Exploit science and technology for improved practice.
  • Developing our team.
Our strategic implementation plan sets out a 4 year program designed to deliver increased capacity and prioritizes preservation and conservation programs based on risk managements protocols. One of our first steps is the revision of our Directive 1571 Managing the Preservation Environment. This revised document incorporates new research and emphasizes the need for flexibility for improved preservation environments and energy savings without compromise to the collections. All of these steps have built on excellent work completed by current staff and their predecessors.   NARA’s refreshed Preservation Programs will be future facing and able to meet the preservation challenges of a 21st century archive.

avatar for Liz Dube

Liz Dube

Lead Conservator and Head, Analog Preservation and Conservation, University of Notre Dame Libraries
Liz Dube is Lead Conservator and Head of Analog Conservation and Preservation for the Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame.
avatar for Alison Reppert Gerber

Alison Reppert Gerber

Preservation Coordinator, Smithsonian Institution Archives
2020 Alan Stark Award recipient Alison Reppert Gerber oversaw the Smithsonian’s 2016 Pan-Institutional Survey of Audiovisual Collections and the 2019 Audiovisual Preservation Readiness Assessment (AVPRA) that included updating and expanding the survey; an evaluation of current AV... Read More →
avatar for Sue Donovan

Sue Donovan

Book Conservator, University of Virginia LIbrary
Sue is a book conservator at the University of Virginia Library. She got her degree at the Universite de Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne specializing in book and paper, and has had internships and fellowships in both book and paper at the Center of the West (formerly Buffalo Bill Historical... Read More →
avatar for Allison McGuire Olson

Allison McGuire Olson

Preservation Program Officer for Special Projects, National Archives and Records Administration
Allison McGuire Olson is a Preservation Program Officer for Special Projects at the National Archives and Records Administration. She has been working on the development and implementation of the Holdings Management System, a technology platform to manage hard copy original records.She... Read More →

Friday May 17, 2019 2:30pm - 4:30pm EDT
Earth Ballroom B Earth Convention Center, Mohegan Sun