NDSR Boston’s NEDCC Field Trip

nedcc-logoNDSR Boston took a field trip to scenic Andover Massachusetts this week to visit the facilities of the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Founded in 1973 by the State Libraries of the six New England states, NEDCC has become a leader in the preservation and conservation community providing the highest quality conservation services to cultural heritage institutions in the region. It is fitting that NEDCC’s facilities are located in a renovated historic mill building.

The facility is organized into three functional areas; the conservation lab, the imaging lab and the audio lab.

nedcc-conservation-labThe conservation lab addresses issues related to books, paper and photographs.  We met Todd who described three different treatments for manuscripts with binding issues. He explained that each project is considered in its own context which results in individualized treatments for each object. We also met with Amanda, a photography conservator. She took a moment to examine a few daguerreotypes of mine. She helped me date the photographs and gave me care and handling instructions.

xy-tableThe imaging lab performs preservation level imaging, creating digital surrogates of many types of objects, including objects being treated in the conservation lab.  Terrence and David explained the imaging equipment and NEDCCs approach to imaging. They explained that large production imaging and digitization is performed with sophisticated, high quality digital camera equipment. They also demonstrated their custom designed X/Y positioning table with a vacuum feature for holding materials in place. The table moves on two axes (X and Y), both front-to-back and side-to-side, beneath a stationary camera allowing the greatest flexibility in capturing all types of materials.

ireneThe audio lab captures sound with sophisticated new imaging technology called IRENE. IRENE uses 2D and 3D cameras to photograph the grooves in audio cylinders and discs as they rotate. The captured images are then processed by software that converts the images to sound. The revolutionary procedure allows the audio recordings to be captured without additional wear and tear to the objects. Audio can even be captured from cylinders and discs that have been broken into pieces. It is very cool. The audio lab is expanding and will soon be capable of digitizing audio from magnetic tape.

We also met with Frances and Eva who work in Preservation Services. They have an important role with perhaps a greater impact than their colleagues preserving objects in the labs. Preservation services are the outreach and educational arm of the operation. They are active in the community; fielding questions, performing preservation assessments, attending conferences and educating their stakeholders with workshops and webinars. They survey the community to keep abreast of what projects people are working on and what questions are being asked.

While NEDCC is focused on the conservation of paper-based collections, they have a growing digital presence. In addition to the imaging and audio labs, they are increasingly providing consulting services and assessments for digital materials and collections. They are aware of the importance of digital stewardship and noted that there are challenges to be overcome by traditional preservation administrators in embracing their role in digital preservation. Aspects of preservation and conservation that are common to both digital and traditional preservation are the importance of organizational support and the need for long-term planning and risk management.

If you live or work in the Boston area and you have never been to NEDCC, I strongly encourage you to organize a tour for your cultural heritage institution or local working group. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Thanks for checking in.

Jeff Erickson

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