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).
The laboratory’s main role is to provide assistance and advice to staff responsible for preserving collections (curators and restorers belonging to BnF and agreed partner libraries), as well as to respond to requests from other institutions.
BnF’s scientific and technical laboratory, which has four chemists and three biologists, is based at two main sites: the Richelieu Library (Site Richelieu) and Bussy-Saint-Georges.
- It is responsible for the following:
- checking the quality of products and materials used to restore, reproduce, and preserve documents (paper, cardboard, leather, glue, adhesive, ink, etc.)
- checking the quality of and helping improve treatments (restoration, deacidification, disinfection, etc.)
- carrying out expert physicochemical analysis of both ancient and contemporary documents (identifying fibers, inks, colorants, binding agents, etc.)
- checking the environmental quality of stores and exhibition locations (climate, lighting, gaseous pollutants, etc.)
- raising the profile among library and archive professionals of the preservation of written, photographic, and audiovisual heritage through continuing education
- carrying out expert biological analysis of documents and storage premises (identifying contaminant types, recommending actions to be implemented, applying curative treatments, etc.)
- The laboratory works closely with laboratories specializing in preservation, and actively monitors scientific developments.
- It hosts visits by students from schools of chemistry, physics, biology, and heritage restoration and preservation.
Examples of internships undertaken at the laboratory:
- INP restoration department – end-of-course internship:
- 2004 books section: “A study of the mechanical behavior of a 15th century illuminated manuscript in a 16th century binding”
- 2005 photography section: “Study and restoration of an oversize glass plate photograph – an ambrotype”
- 2006 books section: “Research into a splitting method applied to an 18th century English print: assessing the efficacy of and level of humidity caused by poultices”
- BTS advanced diploma in Chemistry – first year internship: “Study of VOCs emitted by packaging boxes”
- BTS advanced diploma in Chemistry – end-of-year internship: “Study of VOCs emitted by books and packaging boxes”
- BTS advanced diploma in Microbiology – first year internship: “Microbiological assessment of five glues used by restorers”
- BTS advanced diploma in Microbiology – first year internship: “Efficacy of dusting on developing and dry molds”