Over the course of the semester, we will periodically be sharing blog posts from the students in Honors Seminar 321V, Smelling Old Books: The Art & Science of Preserving Our Past.  The students were asked to consider ways in which learning about heritage preservation has changed their attitude about any aspect of their relationship to the objects around them in their daily lives and habits.

From Alex Menard:

I have always been a sentimental saver. Some of the things I save – books, pictures, articles – belong in “collections” that I have amassed over the years. But the majority of my stuff (and, really, the majority is just stuff) is what I’m hanging onto simply for the memories associated with them. No longer do I have a use for many of the objects that I insist on keeping, but I love to look at them and to tell stories about them, and, as a result, I find myself storing them for perpetuity.

However, my time spent working at Missouri History Museum this past summer and the discussions we’ve had so far in Smelling Old Books: The Art and Science of Preserving Our Past have prompted me to reevaluate my emotional saving. Subsequently, I have concluded the following: In order to maintain the condition of important keepsakes for the future, I need to store them safely and appropriately, and in order to lighten my load, I need to “deacquisition” the objects that I don’t need to keep ASAP. Therefore, I plan on working through my storerooms -aka my bedroom, closet, basement, etc. – and systematically identifying and separating those things I plan on keeping from those I plan on passing onto other more appropriate owners.

Things I need to invest in to conserve my keepsakes: Acid-free tissue, archival boxes, polyester protector sleeves, newspaper boxes, shelf files, etc. I also plan to re-hang a number of pieces of artwork that are currently exposed to too much damaging light and to re-organize those things that are storage so that the environment to which they are exposed fluctuates as little as possible.

As for those things for which I will find a new home, I plan on passing them on to libraries, schools, young cousins, service organizations; And it puts my mind at ease that the things that are so important to me can become even more important to someone else!

From Audra Loy:

Through discussing the field of conservation in this class, I have really gained a fresh view on what I am doing wrong when it comes to my collectibles and even documents. For example, I have a bulletin board at home that I have always enjoyed posting pictures and fun memories on. However, I do this all through the use of pushpins. Every time a pin goes through a photo, I am causing significant damage. Maybe a magnet board would cause less damage since I would not have to physically alter the object. I also have a collection of toy animals that I have had since I was a small child. However, these have been severely neglected and dust and other forms of damage have taken effect. For example, most of the toys are just crammed in plastic boxes and they rub up against one another, causing scratches and marks. Another flaw I have noticed in my life is in my personal collection of books. I carry my books with me everywhere, and they always seem to end up bent or ripped in one way or another. I think that even conservation on a portable level is important. Instead of cramming my book into my backpack, I could carry it in a separate tote or maybe even get a case for it so that the backpack travel would be less likely to cause damage. All-in-all conservation on a personal level seems to be overlooked. Many of the simplified techniques taken for professional collections could also be taken for personal collections, whether they are valuable to the public or to just a single person. Also, once a collection is neglected so long, say for example my animal collection, I have to ask, is it really worth hanging on to or would someone else appreciate its value more? If you haven’t touched it in six years, do you really still need it? A lot of mistakes can be made in conserving our personal collections. What is the biggest? I think it’s pushing pins through photos just so we can see them easier. Meaning, conservation does not always equal practicality.