The Swiss National Library conserves documents in their original form because original documents have always had special value for mankind. It is hard to imagine that one could only consult a printed document such as "Froschauer" on digital format: a great number of experiences would no longer be possible, for example, you wouldn't be able to open the flat wooden clasps, you could no longer feel the engravings when touching a page, neither would you be able to smell the scent of leather which emanates from the binding. It is clear that an original document holds far more than just intellectual content.
It is for this reason that the NL has the legal obligation to keep the original formats. The lifespan of cultural items in our collection can be extended by using adequate conservation measures. The first measures are applied in the book stacks where documents are stored according to conservation standards for library documents. In spite of adequate conservation measures, some documents may be prone to deterioration because they are too fragile to be handled repeatedly or to be transported or else they react negatively to climatic variations. In these cases, the content of the document is copied on an alternative media (for example, newspapers which are digitised or copied onto microfilm); the new copy must then be used as a substitute to the original.
To preserve NL collections and conserve them in optimal conditions, it is necessary to follow and apply the most recent and up-to-date conservation and restoration measures.
To safeguard the library's collections, a disaster plan had been put in place to help staff react in a fast and efficient manner when faced with fire and water damages. The public is also welcome to consult our professionals regarding conservation issues.
To be able to guarantee the quality of our conservation work we collaborate with the best in their field for example for paper deacidification we work with the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart, Studiengang Restaurierung und Konservierung von Graphik, Archiv- und Bibliotheksgut. Nitrochemie Wimmis AG has been an important partner in the paper deacidification project. Our commitment to the SIGEGS (Swiss Association for the the conservation of cultural library items and graphic works) is just another example of the importance the NL places in developing its conservation know-how.
The NL offers training programmes in bookbinding and preservation/restoration.
The following services deal with the conservation of library documents:
- The conservation service, working in different areas such as Deacidification, Collection maintenance and Bookbinding
- The e-Helvetica program
- The Photo and Reprography Service.