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The following guest post is by Jacob Nadal, Director for Preservation

Today we are launching a new blog covering preservation at the Library of Congress: Guardians of Memory: Preserving the National Collection, ISSN 2767-7524. You will hear from preservation staff on the things we do to make sure the Library’s collections endure and we will explore the ways people have recorded their knowledge and creativity across the centuries.

The Library of Congress’ mission — engage, inspire, and inform Congress and the American people with a universal and enduring source of knowledge and creativity – has some obvious hooks for preservation. Everyone will guess that we pay attention to the word “enduring,” but in developing our preservation program and developing the goals for this blog, the word “universal” matters just as much.

The people who care for the national collections come from all across the country and around the world, and The Preservation Directorate itself has over 200 staff, and the Library’s preservation efforts include over 100 more in the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center and the Digital Services Directorate. Hundreds more staff contribute their own part to caring for the collections from the day we bring them to the Library, to the moment we present them to you, whether online, in the exhibition galleries, or in the reading rooms.

Preservation gives us a special way of looking through the library. The questions we ask while maintaining these works reward us with distinctive answers about the intentions, knowledge, and creativity that they embody. This blog is intended to help you see the collections through our eyes by giving you the literary equivalent of a look over the shoulder of the Library’s preservation staff as they do their work.

Quote on the wall of Jefferson. "Memory is the guardian of all things" Cicero
Close-up of the quote by Cicero in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson building. photo: Jake Nadal

On my way back from that particular meeting, I took a few minutes to walk up to the Northwest corner of the second floor gallery in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson building. I wanted to check in on the panel that gave us the title for this blog:


—Cicero, De Oratore, i., 5

When I had asked the Preservation staff what they wanted to see in a title, the suggestions that came back talked about the real people who do the work, their know-how and their care. But finding titles is hard, and as I talked it through with some of our writers, we didn’t think we quite had it, and we spent a few days feeling stuck until we saw this line from Cicero.

We liked it — the Librarian often speaks about the Library as the “treasure chest” – and I liked the play of turning the emphasis to the guardians themselves, the individuals who each do their part in caring for the national memory. I felt pretty good about it, myself, but the job of a preservation librarian is basically to worry about things and be perpetually unsure. When I stopped in to take a look this morning, though, and saw the panel was surrounded by scaffolding with conservation work in progress, I decided we had it just right.

the Great Hall under-going conservation
Scaffolding, and our inspiration panel, in the Great Hall. photo: Jake Nadal

Comments (9)

  1. So looking forward to learning how you preserve our cultural treasures – and memory.

  2. I’d love to follow this blog on the Feedly aggregate (which I used to replace the erstwhile Google Reader tool), but it doesn’t seem to link up. Any thoughts?

    • For most feed reader services, you subscribe simply by listing the URL. If that doesn’t work check the FAQ for your feed reader service. Thank you

  3. Is there a link where we can sign up for the blog?

    • Yes there is! There is are three small icons above the blog on the right side. One of those says ‘subscribe’.

  4. Thank you to the librarians of the Library of Congress who have done and do so much to preserve the histories of the immigrants to this great land. Marta Urteaga Pippin Nail

  5. Congratulations for the initiative. I loved the blog! very well elaborated and interesting.

  6. And thank you also to the Historians of the Library of Congress for reminding us of Cicero. My father was a Peruvian historian and he often quoted Cicero…
    Keep up the good work Librarians of Congress as an immigrant I can tell you that your work is needed NOW and in the years to come….

  7. This is going to be fantastic! Thank you so very much!

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