Last Friday was the start of a full weekend of activities for alumni as part of Duke Reunions and the library was a popular destination for those visiting campus. A few of us in Conservation Services were able to participate in some of the events and share our work.
In the morning, Rachel Penniman and I partnered with some of our colleagues in Research Services, Technical Services, the Digital Production Center, and Exhibitions to talk about all the behind-the-scenes work that went into preparing the items currently on display from the Lisa Unger Baskin collection.
Each speaker took a few minutes to describe their role in bringing the exhibition to life. Rachel and I discussed how we assessed and treated all of the items selected for imaging and exhibition, giving an overview of general principles of conservation treatment and some of our workflows.
Over the course of an hour, the audience was able to learn more about the complex work that goes into cataloging, preserving, and documenting the items that the library makes available for scholarship. The event was very well attended and we even had time at the end to speak with some of the alumni and answer questions.
In the afternoon, Beth Doyle and I brought some of the new items for adoption up to the Biddle exhibition suite to share with visitors of the exhibition.
Many of the people who stopped by to talk with us had very personal connections with the items we had on the table. Several alumni commented that, even as students, they had regularly come to the library to see the “double elephant folio” copies of The Birds of America. The first editions of Tolkien were also a huge hit. We even had some items adopted on the spot!
It’s easy to get absorbed in the day-to-day challenges of supporting library projects and collections, but it is very rewarding to climb out of the basement once in a while to talk about our work with members of the campus community. I am reminded of how engaged both current and former students are with this university and their fondness for the library.