Conservation & Exhibitions Services continued its collaboration with the YUL Judaica Collection to conserve unique manuscripts documenting Jewish life in areas of North Africa. A conservation condition survey, completed in 2014 through the generous support of the Arcadia Foundation, identified 1.4 million dollars of treatment for YUL’s collection of over 1800 manuscripts. The treatments were prescribed to address the ravages of time, well-meaning poor repairs, exposure to insects and water, and chemical deterioration.   Ultimately we would like to hire paper conservation staff to treat the collection in the Gates Conservation Laboratory, which was designed with just this sort of project in mind.  The data from the survey will inform future applications to granting agencies and private foundations to tackle the collection’s substantial treatment needs.

Until such support is secured, we will do whatever we can for the most damaged and at-risk manuscripts in the collection. As our annual budget permits, we are sending small numbers of the most fragile manuscripts to an outside conservation center for treatment.  The first group of five manuscripts were selected from the 301 identified as the highest conservation priority.  In May, the manuscripts were returned to the Library ready for researcher use and in considerably better condition than when they were sent out for treatment. This effort seems modest compared to the overall collection needs, but as a wise man once said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The next group of 5-10 manuscripts selected for treatment will be sent out this fall.

The images below show the state of some of these manuscripts before and after treatment.




Treatment documentation photographs taken by
the Center for the Conservation of Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), Philadelphia, PA 2016