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: research

The BnF laboratory actively cooperates with a large number of domestic and international institutions with expertise in heritage preservation research, enabling it to take part in joint preservation research programs with those institutions.

European programs

PaperTreat – Evaluation of mass deacidification processes (2005-2007) – 6th framework program for research and technological development, Strep project

Coordinator: Jana Kolar (national and university library, Lubiana, Slovenia)

This project aims to create long-term backups of acidic paper documents held by libraries and archive departments, and to provide long-term access to those documents. It consists of assessing the effects of mass deacidification processes and low-temperature storage on increasing the life span of acidic paper, and providing specifications that can be used to estimate processing costs. The project also develops model materials and assessment and quality control criteria for simplifying the assessment of emerging processes.

Subsidized national programs

These projects form part of the three-year plan governing research at BnF.

Volatile organic compounds emitted by library collections and their packaging; identification and effects on healthy collections (2007-2009)
Project jointly subsidized by the Ministry for Culture and Communication (Ministère de la culture et de la communication) and BnF

Coordinator: Thi-Phuong Nguyen (BnF); partners: French Museums Research and Conservation Center (Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France/C2RMF)

In 2005, a study of air quality in the storage areas of the new BnF building revealed the existence of significant internal pollution emitted by collections and/or packaging materials. This project aims to identify and assess the effects of these pollutants on healthy collections.

Effects of preservation processes on documents containing ferrogallic ink (2007-2009)
Project jointly subsidized by the Ministry for Culture and Communication (Ministère de la culture et de la communication) and BnF

Manuscript containing ferro-gallic ink

Manuscript containing ferro-gallic ink

Coordinator: Véronique Rouchon (CRCC); partners: Collection Preservation Research Center (Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation des Collections/CRCC)

Processes traditionally used to restore documents containing ferrogallic ink, and in particular aqueous processes, can entail side-effects of varying degrees of severity. Factors at play may include ink quality, type of medium, process type, and protocol used. This projects aims to assess the effects of these various factors in order to help restorers improve the processes used on such documents.

Preservation of audiovisual and multimedia materials (2004-2009)
Project jointly subsidized by the Ministry for Culture and Communication (Ministère de la culture et de la communication) and BnF

Coordinator: Xavier Sene (BnF)
This project began with an assessment of BnF’s CD and DVD collections: identification of types of degradation, analysis of underlying causes, and development of cleaning methods. Since 2007, older materials such as LPs (made from acetate, lac, or vinyl) have also been assessed in this way.

Selection of vegetable-tanned calf leather for restoring and preserving books
Project jointly subsidized by the Ministry for Culture and Communication (Ministère de la culture et de la communication) and BnF (2004-2006). Subsidized via BnF’s own budget since 2007

Degraded leather bookbinding

Degraded leather bookbinding

Coordinator: Frédérique Juchauld (BnF)

Research carried in 2004 into the quality of a series of calf leathers produced in Northern Europe concluded that none of them met the criteria laid down for use in preservation and restoration. This project aims to determine the most suitable protocols for producing leathers of a quality appropriate to book preservation and restoration needs.

Non-subsidized programs

Coronelli Globes

Coronelli Globes

  • Study of leaves in eastern manuscripts made unreadable by the use of corrosive iron-based colorants
    Coordinator: Thi-Phuong Nguyen (BnF)
  • Controlling the environmental conditions of the Coronelli globes in the context of their permanent display – Analysis of pigments and binding agents
    Coordinator: Nathalie Buisson (BnF)
  • Microbiological assessment of starch glues used by BnF restorers
    Coordinator: Tony Basset (BnF)
Moldy paper surface (Aspergillus niger) SEM x 100

Moldy paper surface (Aspergillus niger) SEM x 100

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