Learning about Preservation: My experience as an intern with the Library of Congress

The following is a guest blog post by Darshai Hollie, a 2021 HBCU Library Alliance intern with the Preservation Directorate’s Conservation Division at the Library of Congress. She is a rising senior at Spelman College, pursuing a major in History and a minor in Cultural Studies.

portrait of DarshaiMy experience interning with the Preservation Directorate Conservation Division has been enjoyable. I have learned so much about housing objects, how documents are damaged, how conservators repair documents and books, and much more. I cannot forget learning about the Library of Congress Preservation Emergency Response Team (PERT) and their Preservation Emergency Response Kit (PERK).

This internship experience was very different to me since it was remote instead of in-person. Instead of going to the Library and meeting the team members of the Conservation Division, I got to meet them on Zoom. It was still an enjoyable experience for me that I will never forget, learning what it takes for a Conservator to preserve objects and the risks and disasters that could affect the collection in the library.

At the beginning of the Internship, I met with many staff in the Conservation Division, especially my mentor Nancy Lev-Alexander. Nancy has assisted me in learning about the division as well as meeting her colleagues. She introduced the world of conservation by sending me readings on handling books and the challenge of thinking about how to protect collections while also encouraging their use. Discussions with Nancy have always been welcoming and informative. Furthermore, I enjoyed working with Nancy because she provided me with the necessary assistance to speak with many professionals in the Library of Congress, such as Adrienne Cannon, the Afro-American History and Culture Specialist, and Jacob Nadal, the Director for Preservation. I had a wonderful time speaking with them and hearing their advice to me on the library/archives field.

photo of Darshai practicing paper mending at home

Darshai Hollie practicing a paper mend. Photo by Daja Hollie.

Furthermore, the most enjoyable experience while working as an intern at the Library was learning new information. For instance, I learned how conservators treat papers during the session I had with Paper Conservator Susan Peckham. I realized how the paper can be cleaned with water because the paper is made with water. This was very interesting as I always thought that water could damage the material. I discovered that Japanese tissues with wheat starch paste are used to fix the tears of papers. Also, in other sessions with different Conservators, I learned the types of housing for a variety of collection objects, information about various forms of photography, and much more.

In this internship, I appreciated working with Megan Keister, Andrew Robb, Ashley Greek, and the PERT (Preservation Emergency Response Team) team, who helped me learn about the PERK (Preservation Emergency Response Kit), and assisted me with my final project. I never knew that the Library of Congress had an emergency response plan or kit, or even about collections that could be harmed by risk or disaster. It is excellent for the Library to have a team from the Preservation Directorate to help reduce the risk and minimize the damage to the collections. One of my favorite parts of the PERK session was doing the book drying experiment for my project. It was fun to use the books and materials such as the corrugated board and the blotting paper to help absorb the water from the books as the books were drying for about two days.

picture of internship package materials sent to Darshai

The book drying and PERK packets. Photo by Darshai Hollie.

Along with learning about PERK, I was able to assemble my own PERK. I am glad that the Preservation Emergency Response Team has provided me with the resources about supplies and the materials that I needed for the kit. Additionally, I had a great time creating my own virtual PERK kit for my college archives. The virtual PERK kit project was challenging because I had to think about what collections my college’s archives have. What are the risks to the collections? And what types of supplies and materials are needed to take action? Another challenge for the project was to find a sustainable cost for the kit, as many stores were costly. The project was successful overall; I am glad to have the team to help me through the six-week internship.

two photos showing wet books interleaved with papers and fanned open to dry

Books set up to dry. Photo by Darshai Hollie.

Overall, this internship has provided me with the idea of helping preserve the objects of my local theater in my hometown. The local theater is a black theater that allows African American kids to get into acting, dancing, and playing music. The theater has old newspapers from the early 70s and late 90s that give details about their achievements. With the information that I have learned from this internship, I want to preserve their newspapers.

I am glad that I have worked with the Library of Congress Preservation Directorate/Conservation Staff. Thank you to Nancy, Megan, and the other colleagues for the session and the kit. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to come in person to the Library of Congress in the future.

Darshai Hollie participated in weekly presentation and discussion with the following Conservation Division staff during the course of her internship. Dareece Graves and Leslie Long (General Collections Conservation), Susan Peckham (Paper Conservation), Rachel Wetzel (Photograph Conservation), Jennifer Evers and Shelly Smith (Book Conservation), Annie Immediata and Jennifer Lewis (Special Collections Housing and Stabilization), Ashley Greek (Preservation Supplies), Ashley Greek, Alan Haley, Annie Immediata, Megan Keister, Andrew Robb and Anna Zastrow (Collections Emergency Preparedness and Response).

If you are interested in learning about internships with the Preservation Directorate, you can find more information our website or on the HBCU Library Alliance website.

3 Comments

  1. Debbie Hollue
    August 1, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Good job Darshea I am so very proud of you I love you keep up the good work you are so beautiful and smart

  2. Donna Barkley
    August 1, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    This is very interesting
    that this young lady was able to accomplish so much library information
    about congress that is very interesting to preserve.
    I’m very proud to know that she will be a perfect person to become
    the first BLACK WOMEN to
    Recreate a new way to preserve………

    A person of Interest in her life….
    …..

  3. Shirley Hand
    August 3, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Great Job ! Continue to do great things

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