Preservation at BnF: policy, laboratory, and sites
Throughout its history, the National library of France has developed techniques appropriate to its preservation responsibilities. Alongside traditional curative care and binding, new activities have been added: prevention and preservation, staff training and awareness-raising, digitization, research, and technology monitoring.
BnF’s laboratory enables a truly scientific approach by developing methods for analyzing materials and the ways in which they age and degrade.
Activities are spread across four distinct sites, coordinated within the Preservation department by a central team based at the François Mitterrand Library (Site François-Mitterrand).
BnF’s collection care policy: media transfer
Media transfer covers all techniques based on reproducing the content of information contained in a document on a longer-lasting medium so as to avoid having to physically repair the primary document for preservation purposes. The medium used may be either silver film or a digital file.
For the past 30 years, BnF has based its backup policy on microreproduction on silver film (microfilm and microfiche). Until the past few years, this was the only media transfer technique available; it established the principle that, apart from rare exceptions, all reproduced documents could only subsequently be consulted on microfilm or microfiche. This policy made it possible to restore access to the contents of hundreds of thousands of documents which were unfit for viewing and too expensive to restore as a result of their paper having been weakened by acid.
These techniques are gradually being replaced by digitization, which enables documents to be consulted more easily, and in particular remotely. Digitization is growing exponentially (Gallica, Europeana, etc.) as a result of very large external markets. It combines the ability to promote collections with a backup effect by securely archiving documents. Internal programs to digitize documents unfit for viewing are also being pursued at the same time.