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Every year the conservators, conservation assistants, and exhibition staff work to ensure that the Yale University Library’s collections are physically fit for use in classrooms, reading rooms, and exhibitions (on campus and around the world). Fiscal year 2014 (July 2013 through June 2014) was no exception.

In FY 2014, over 15,000 books, prints, works of art, objects, and photographs came through the labs’ doors or were examined on-site in the various libraries and collections on campus.  The volume was similar to previous years.  But the driving forces behind the work reflected new areas of collaboration and unique ways in which the Library’s conservation program can engage in the teaching, learning, and research life of the campus.  The three of the most interesting and important drivers were:

the mysterious Voynich manuscript

study or intellectual investigation that requires in-depth material examination;

examples included protein sequencing of a parchment manuscript, reflectance transformation imaging of the surfaces of bookbindings, and the examination of tracings on parchment under magnification and alternative light sources




(left) highly sensitive prints of butterflies, carefully monitored while on exhibit to maintain their vibrant appearance

scientific research informed by conservation concerns and on-the-ground experiences;

examples included light sensitivity testing and color monitoring of objects in exhibitions (left); study of cyanotype (blueprints) color regeneration; infrared imaging to uncover disguised markings on wooden pagodas





Yale students practicing the art of the medieval scribe while visiting the conservation labs

and material culture teaching using collections and the conservation laboratories.

examples included Traveling Scriptorium class sessions for Yale students in English literature classes, book history courses, and for graduate student seminars




Over a series of posts, we will highlight a range of projects and work undertaken in FY 2014 by Conservation & Exhibitions Services.  The Yale Library is an incredible place to be a conservator – we see an impressive array of collection materials and have the chance to meet exceptional students and faculty who share our passion for learning from things.