Preservation at BnF: policy, laboratory, and sites

Throughout its history, the Library 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).

Laboratory equipment

The laboratory has a full range of scientific equipment for carrying out the necessary research and analysis.

Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer

Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer

Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer

This simple-to-use, non-destructive technique can be used to obtain information about the molecular structures and chemical relationships found in organic and inorganic materials.

It is used to identify plastic packaging materials, adhesives used in stickers, varnish, glue, textiles, etc.

Equipment used:
Perkin Elmer Spectrum 2000 system with microscope and diamond ATR


Equipment for liquid phase chromatography

Equipment for liquid phase chromatography

Chromatography is an analytical technique for separating the various constituents of a mixture. It can be used to both identify and quantify components such as binding agents, colorants, plasticizers, volatile compounds, tannins, etc.

Chromatographical methods may be categorized according to the physical nature of phases (mobile and stationary). The most common methods are gas phase chromatography (GPC) and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Liquid phase chromatography (HPLC)

This technique is used, for example, to analyze the degree of degradation of cellulose in paper (to measure the impact of paper treatments).

Equipment used:
Beckman system with a diode-array visible ultraviolet (UV-vis) radiation detector and a refractometric detector

Gas phase chromatography

This highly sensitive separation technique is used to work on very small samples and analyze complex mixtures of ancient and modern organic materials:
  • characterizing animal glue used for restoration
  • identifying efflorescences taken from leather bindings 
  • identifying volatile compounds emitted by materials 
  • identifying plastics (by pyrolysis)

Equipment used:

Finnigan GCQ system comprising a chromatograph

Finnigan GCQ system comprising a chromatograph and an ion trap mass spectrometer (GPC/MS) combined with a Pyroprobe CDS1000 pyrolyser

Perkin Elmer Autosystem comprising a chromatograph

Perkin Elmer Autosystem comprising a chromatograph and a thermal desorber 

Physical measurement devices

Testing machines for characterizing the principal mechanical properties of standardized test tubes.

Equipment used:

Tear strength tester

Tear strength tester




  • Optical microscopes/binocular loupe
  • Air sampler
  • Ethylene oxide sterilization autoclave
  • Water vapor sterilization autoclave
  • Incubators
  • Microbiological safety station
  • Electronic climate monitoring system (Hanwell and Testo systems)

Friday, July 1, 2016


Chemistry Section
Organic chemistry
- Stéphane Bouvet
- Alain Lefebvre

Inorganic chemistry
Nathalie Buisson

Biology - Preventive Conservation Section
- Caroline Laffont
- Clémentine Kumar
- Valentier Rottier

- Valentin Rottier