October 26, 2021

The Washington Post Goes Inside the Smithsonian’s Book Conservation Lab

From The Washington Post:

The Smithsonian Institution’s Book Conservation Lab in Landover [MD] is where a small team of book conservators and technicians conserve and preserve more than 1.5 million volumes housed in the Smithsonian’s 20 libraries in as close to original condition as possible.


The Dibner and Cullman Libraries house most of the rare and special collections, but all the 20 libraries contain some special collections material. Vanessa Haight Smith, director of the lab and rare book conservator, who came from the Princeton Library six years ago, works on exhibitions and manages the loan program, in addition to hands-on conserving work. She recently retrieved The Pavilion at Brighton from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, one of the Smithsonian Institution’s Libraries, and has taken it from its binding.


The lab’s tools range from wooden presses that resemble medieval torture devices, to a database of books on loan, to remote environmental atmospheric monitoring of the library collections done from the lab by Phuong Pham. The general collections technician, Pham single-handedly conserves all general collection books of the institution’s libraries.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.