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Mellon Awards Libraries $1.25 Million for Conservation

Foundation Award Will Expand Department

DURHAM, NC: The Duke University Libraries have received a $1.25 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create a new senior conservator position to help care for the Libraries’ extensive research collections. During the next three years, the Libraries will raise a matching $1 million to endow the position, while $250,000 of the grant will allow the Libraries to proceed with appointing someone before the endowment is fully funded.

The new senior conservator position will help the Libraries to address a growing need to preserve and make accessible a wide variety of materials that are currently unavailable to researchers or could be damaged by use because of their fragile condition. It will also allow the Libraries’ Conservation Services Department to expand partnerships on campus and throughout the Triangle area.

Demand For Skilled Conservators

The demand for skilled conservation professionals has never been higher, as historical library collections age and technology poses new questions about long-term access to information. A recent survey of Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library (RBMSCL) indicated that nearly one-third of its holdings require conservation treatments. That translates to a significant need: the RBMSCL has collections of more than 350,000 printed volumes, 20 million manuscripts, and 200,000 photographs, in addition to numerous other formats, from ancient papyri to born-digital records. Many of these materials come with unique conservation needs that must be addressed before researchers can use them.

Duke’s experienced team of library conservation professionals serves as a local and regional resource on a range of conservation-related issues. Conservators regularly collaborate with other Duke units, such as the Nasher Museum of Art and the Center for Documentary Studies, and with partners in the Triangle Research Libraries Network (North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The addition of a senior conservator will increase the department’s level of expertise and the opportunities for outreach and conservation education to the community.

Mellon’s Previous Support of the Libraries

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has generously supported several other Duke University Libraries initiatives. Previous Mellon grants are helping to develop a portal for integrated access to international papyrus collections; a next-generation, open-source library system that fits modern library workflows; and campus-wide institutional strategies for managing and preserving Duke’s vast and varied digital assets.

“We could not realize our most ambitious goals without the Mellon Foundation’s generous support,” said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “Our research collections are both deep and diverse in coverage and a powerful draw to scholars working in many disciplines. By improving our ability to preserve these materials for the next generation, this grant is supporting not just Duke, but the entire scholarly community.”

The job announcement has been posted.