Library, Preservation Share ‘Spotlight’ with Glitterati

Tim Daly gingerly wound his way up a narrow spiral staircase to a low-ceilinged, vaulted alcove overlooking the ornate Ceremonial Office of the Librarian of Congress.  Surveying the VIPs on the crowded floor below–members of Congress, Hollywood A-listers, Library leadership–he pulled out a digital camera to capture the celebratory moment.  Then he paused. “I wonder […]

The Library and Twitter: An FAQ

(UPDATE: Here’s a December 2017 status report on our work with the Twitter archives.) (UPDATE: Here’s a January 2013 status report on our work with the Twitter archives.) Twitter’s gift (link is PDF) to the Library of Congress of its entire archive of public tweets, announced two weeks ago today, sure has stoked the public’s interest.  […]

But You Don’t Look a Day Over 209 …

Audrey Fischer of the Library’s Public Affairs Office offers this guest blog item for Saturday: April 24 marks the Library’s 210th anniversary. Let it be said that the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution keeps getting better with age. In 2000, the Library of Congress celebrated its bicentennial. That same year it embarked on a mission […]

Preserving ‘Herblock’ a Rewarding Job for Conservators

Ever wonder what goes on before an exhibition is mounted and displayed?  My colleague Donna Urschel takes an in-depth look at the preservation steps that were required for the Library’s “Herblock!” exhibition, on display through May 1: Preserving ‘Herblock’ a Rewarding Job for Conservators by Donna Urschel Shortly after the famous Washing­ton Post political cartoonist […]

New Optical Lab Brings LOC into 21st Century

(The following is a guest article about new preservation capabilities at the LOC by my colleague Donna Urschel, which was recently published in the the Library’s staff newsletter, the Gazette.)

Library of Congress Optical Properties Lab

Preservation Research Chief Eric Hansen explains how equipment is used to capture sound from damaged audio recordings. (Abby Brack photo)

For many decades, details of the 1791 Pierre L’Enfant Plan of Washington, D.C.—one of the many treasures at the Library of Congress—had been obscured. A long-ago application of a varnish preservative had darkened the map’s surface. But today, thanks to special imaging techniques, the invisible streets and special locations, including the “President’s House” and “Congress’ House,” pop out.

Hyperspectral imaging, a process of taking digital photos of an object using distinct portions of the light spectrum, is revealing what previously could not be seen by the human eye.

In room 27 on the sub-basement level of the James Madison Building, fascinating details of our historical heritage are coming to light in the recently opened Optical Properties Laboratory. Operated by the Library’s Preservation Research and Testing Division (PRTD) in the Preservation Directorate, the lab contains a hyperspectral imaging system, an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM), equipment for optical disc quality testing and a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) system.

The new lab enhances the Library’s capability to use nondestructive analytical techniques to track changes in optical properties of materials, helping conservators, curators and librarians extend the life of the collections. Along the way, many interesting details about the documents are revealed.

The Optical Properties Lab is one of three new labs in the Preservation Directorate. Two more will open in the Madison Building in 2010: the Chemical and Physical Properties laboratories. The new equipment and redesigned space will bring the 30-year-old science labs of the Preservation Directorate into the 21st century.


Stephen Hobaica in the Library’s Preservation, Research and Testing lab tests for chemical markers of degradation of magnetic media. (Abby Brack photo)

Read more »

Library’s Flickr Site Celebrates the Taggable Twos

(Guest post by Michelle Springer, Library of Congress Office of Strategic Initiatives) Jan. 16 is the two-year anniversary of the launch of the Library’s account on Flickr, the photosharing website. We started with approximately 3,100 photos in our account; today 30 additional archives, libraries, and museums from the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, the […]

‘Twas the Night Before the Night Before Christmas …

… And despite all good cheer, It sized up as “boringest night of the year.” Still 36 hours until Christmas dawning, And reruns of reruns were leaving ‘em yawning. The tree decorating had happened last week The lineup of movies appeared rather bleak. The cookies were eaten; the sprinkles were scattered No Christmas ‘till Christmas! […]

How Green These Valleys Were, As Well …

Take a moment out of this busy day to relax at the side of a waterfall at Fairy Glen in Bettws-y-Coed Wales or go explore the castle ruins at Aberystwith, Wales. We’ve loaded 167 new color Photocrom travel views of Wales from 1890-1900 on our Flickr photostream at The set is full of castles […]