Preserving our Heritage: Perspectives from Antiquity to the Digital Age

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Winner of the 2016 Preservation Publication Award from the Society of American Archivists (SAA)

Drawing on a multitude of historical texts, this sweeping yet accessible volume provides a broad understanding of preservation for librarians, archivists, and museum specialists, and related LIS and continuing education classes. Cloonan offers readers an overview of longevity, reversibility, enduring value, and authenticity of information preservation. Each section features historical works that form the basis of contemporary thinking and practices. Readings from a variety of fields primarily concerned with the preservation of cultural heritage, including many from hard-to-find publications, shed new light on how to approach contemporary problems. An ideal teaching text as well as a benchmark reference source for researchers, this book covers such key topics as

  • Early perspectives on preservation, from 700 BC to the 19th century
  • Cultural heritage and risks to cultural heritage, such as time and nature
  • Preservation in the context of libraries, archives, museums, and the built environment
  • Digitization, the preservation of time-based media, obsolescence, and other contemporary collection development and management issues
  • Important frameworks for the discipline, such as policy, ethics and values, sustainability, multicultural perspectives, and more

Cloonan's selections and insightful commentary on each facet of preservation comprise a truly global and current view of the field.

Advisory Board



Preservation Timeline

Chapter One: Early Perspectives on Preservation

Jeremiah 32:14, ca. 630–580 BC

Isaiah 30:8, ca. 740–700 BC

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Excerpts from De Architectura libri decem, ca. 75–15 BC 

M. Valerii Martial, Epigrammaton Liber 10.2, ca. 40–104 AD

The Koran, Excerpt from Surah 85, "The Constellations," ca. 632

Hakīm Abul-Qāsim Ferdowsī Tūsī, Excerpt from "When the Sword of Sixty Comes Nigh His Head," from the Shahnameh, ca. 977–1010

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18, "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" ca. 1593–1598

Gabriel Naudé, Advis Pour Dresser Une Bibliothèque, 1627

John Weever, Excerpts from Ancient Funeral Monuments, of Great Britain, Ireland, and the Islands Adiacent, 1631

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Ebenezer Hazard, February 18, 1791

Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias," 1818

John Murray, "On the Bad Composition of Paper," 1823 

Francis Lieber, Excerpts from General Orders No. 100: The Lieber Code: Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, 1863

William Morris, et al., "The Manifesto" of The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, 1877

Chapter Two: Perspectives on Cultural Heritage

Jan Assmann, "Collective Memory and Cultural Identity," 1995

Pierre Bourdieu, Excerpts from Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, 1984

 Peter Burman, "What is Cultural Heritage?" 2001

Australia International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS Inc.), The Burra Charter, 1999

Susan M. Pearce, "The Making of Cultural Heritage," 2000

Laurajane Smith, Excerpts from Uses of Heritage, 2006

Chapter Three: Preservation in Context: Libraries, Archives, Museums, and the Built Environment

  • Environment

Paul N. Banks, "A Library Is Not a Museum," 1983

David W. Carr, "In the Contexts of the Possible: Librarians and Museums as Incendiary Cultural Institutions," 2000

Stanley Chodorow, "To Represent Us Truly: The Job and Context of Preserving the Cultural Record," 2006

Michele Valerie Cloonan, "The Preservation of Knowledge," 1993

F. Gerald Ham, "The Archival Edge," 1975

  • Libraries

Pamela W. Darling and Sherelyn Ogden, "From Problems Perceived to Programs in Practice: The Preservation of Library Resources in the U.S.A., 1956–1980," 1981

Ross Harvey, "Developing a Library Preservation Program," 1993

Jan Merrill-Oldham, "Taking Care: An Informed Approach to Library Preservation," 2002

  • Archives

David Bearman, "Retention and Preservation," 1989

Richard J. Cox, "Digital Curation and the Citizen Archivist," 2009

Kenneth E. Foote, "To Remember and Forget: Archives, Memory, and Culture," 1990

Anne J. Gilliland, Enduring Paradigm, New Opportunities: The Value of the Archival Perspective in the Digital Environment, 2000, updated 2011

James M. O'Toole, "On the Idea of Permanence," 1989

  • Museums

Edward Porter Alexander and Mary Alexander, "To Conserve," 2008

James Cuno, Excerpt from "The Object of Art Museums," 2003

John Cotton Dana, "Why This Series Is Begun: The Old Museum and the New," 1917

G. Brown Goode, "The Relationships and Responsibilities of Museums," 1895

  • Historic Preservation/Architectural Conservation

Cesare Brandi, Excerpts from "The Concept of Restoration," in Theory of Restoration, 1963

James Marston Fitch, "The Philosophy of Restoration: Williamsburg to the Present," 1992

Jukka Jokilehto, "Preservation Theory Unfolding," 2006

Paul Philippot, Excerpts from "Historic Preservation: Philosophy, Criteria, Guidelines," 1972

Chapter Four: Collections: Development and Management

Ross W. Atkinson, "Selection for Preservation: A Materialistic Approach," 1986

Paula De Stefano, "Selection for Digital Conversion in Academic Libraries," 2001

Dan Hazen, Jeffrey Horrell, and Jan Merrill-Oldham, Excerpts from "Selecting Research Collections for Digitization," 1998

  • Collections: Time-Based Media

Karen F. Gracy, "Preservation in a Time of Transition: Redefining Stewardship of Time-Based Media in the Digital Age," 2013

Howard Besser, "Digital Preservation of Moving Image Material?" 2001

Gregory Lukow, "The Politics of Orphanage: The Rise and Impact of the ‘Orphan Film' Metaphor on Contemporary Preservation Practice," 1999

Mark S. Roosa, "Sound and Audio Archives," 2009

Dietrich Schűller, "Socio-technical and Socio-cultural Challenges of Audio and Video Preservation," 2008

Chapter Five: Risks to Cultural Heritage: Time, Nature, and Humans

Rebecca Knuth, "Understanding Modern Biblioclasm," 2006

Pip Laurenson, "Inside Instillations. Preservation and Presentation of Instillation Art. Part 1: Risk Assessment," 2007

Dennis S. Mileti and Lori Peek, "How Do Societies Manage Risk?" 2001

Peter Waters, Excerpts from Procedures for Salvage of Water-Damaged Materials, 1993

Chapter Six: Conservation

Paul N. Banks, "The Laws of Conservation," n.d., with new material added by the editor

Christopher Clarkson, "Minimum Intervention in Treatment of Books," 1999

Douglas Cockerell, Excerpt from A Note on Bookbinding, 1904

Caroline K. Keck, "The Role of the Conservator," 1972

Sheldon Keck, "Further Materials for a History of Conservation," 1976

Andrew Oddy, "Does Reversibility Exist in Conservation?" 1999

Jan Paris, "Conservation and the Politics of Use and Value in Research Libraries," 2000

Nicholas Pickwoad, "Distinguishing between the Good and Bad Repair of Books," 1994

Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, Excerpts from "Conservation Treatment," Preserving Archives and Manuscripts, 2nd ed., 2010

Chapter Seven: Frameworks for Digital Preservation

Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information, Excerpts from Preserving Digital Information: Report of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information, 1996

Paul Conway, Excerpts from Preservation in the Digital World, 1996

Margaret Hedstrom, "Understanding Electronic Incunabula: A Framework for Research on Electronic Records," 1991

Brian Lavoie and Lorcan Dempsey, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at . . . Digital Preservation," 2004

Clifford Lynch, "Repatriation, Reconstruction, and Cultural Diplomacy in the Digital World," 2008

Jeff Rothenberg, "Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents," 1995

Abby Rumsey, Why Digitize? 1999

Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access, Excerpts from Sustainable Economics for a Digital Planet: Ensuring Long-Term Access to Digital Information: Final Report, 2008

Chapter Eight: Preservation Policy

Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa, "Exploring Cultural Policy at Humanities Texas," 2010, updated 2012

John H. Hammer, "On the Political Aspects of Book Preservation in the U.S.," 1992

John Henry Merryman, "Art Systems and Cultural Policy," 2009

Chapter Nine: Ethics and Values

  • Selected Conventions, Charters, Declarations, and Professional Association Codes of Ethics

United Nations, Excerpts from Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

UNESCO, Excerpt from Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 1954

UNESCO, Excerpt from Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972

United Nations, excerpts from Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007

Salzburg Declaration on the Conservation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage, 2009

American Alliance of Museums, Code of Ethics for Museums: A Sampling, 1991, amended 2000

American Association for State and Local History, Excerpts from Statement of Professional Standards and Ethics, 2012

American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Excerpts from Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice, 1994

American Library Association, excerpt from Code of Ethics, 1939, amended 1981, 1995, 2008

Association of Moving Image Archivists, Excerpt from Code of Ethics, 2009

Society of American Archivists, Excerpts from Code of Ethics for Archivists, 2005, revised 2012

  • Articles

Richard Cox and James O'Toole, "The Impulse to Save," 2006

Richard Cox and James O'Toole, "The Impulse to Destroy," 2006

Samuel Jones and John Holden, "Conservation and Its Values," 2008

Ellen Pearlstein, "Restoring Provenance to a Native American Feather Blanket," 2010

Ernst van de Wetering, "Conservation-Restoration: Ethics and the Problem of Modern Art," 1999

Chapter Ten: Multicultural Perspectives

Lourdes Arizpe, "Cultural Heritage and Globalization," 2000

Miriam Clavir, "First Nations Perspectives on Preservation and Museums," 2002

Virginia Greene, "‘Accessories of Holiness': Defining Jewish Sacred Objects," 1992

Sven Haakanson, Jr., "Why Should American Indian Cultural Objects Be Preserved?" 2004

Chapter Eleven: Sustainability

Erica Avrami, Randall Mason, and Marta de la Torre, Excerpts from Values and Heritage Conservation, 2000

David Lowenthal, "Stewarding the Future," 2005

Rebecca Meyer, Shannon Struble, and Phyllis Catsikis, "Sustainability: A Review," 2012

Chapter Twelve: Epilogue



Author Index

General Index

Michele Valerie Cloonan

Michele Valerie Cloonan is Dean Emerita and Professor of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College and editor in chief of Preservation, Digital Technology and Culture. From 2004-2007 she coordinated a Simmons College/Harvard University/UCLA Libraries initiative to train Iraqi librarians. She is a former president of the Association for Library and Information Science Education, has held a variety of offices in the American Library Association, has served on the board of the American Printing History Association, has chaired the Northeast Document Conservation Center Board of Directors, and has served on the Preservation Committee of the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Preservation and Conservation Section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. She is on the editorial board of Libri and has also served on the editorial boards of Libraries and Culture and Library Quarterly. Her honors and awards include the 2010 Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award, Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, American Library Association; 2010 Service Award, Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE), Robert Vosper/IFLA Fellows Programme award, the Bibliographic Society of America Fellowship, and a fellowship to the Virginia Center of Creative Arts. She has published over 50 articles, chapters, and books, and has been Principal Investigator on numerous grants.

"There is a good balance between the historic roots of preservation and contemporary challenges surrounding digital preservation ... A sound investment for anyone seeking an overview of the field of preservation."
— Library Journal

"This volume makes a diverse array of articles and some from hard-to-find sources easily accessible for students of architecture, cultural heritage, historical conservation, book arts, and related programs of study. Taken together, the readings included here provide an excellent single-volume overview to introduce readers to the wide concerns of preservationists."

"A wonderful contribution to the preservation literature. The readings are expertly selected and organized in a highly successful way that cumulatively tells us much about where the profession has come from and where it is headed."
— Technical Services Quarterly

"Highly recommended."
— Technicalities

"Professionals and students alike working in and studying about archives, museums, libraries, and historic preservation now have a clear and compelling place to either begin or continue a review of the literature that should inform their everyday work. This hefty anthology helpfully consolidates some of the key literature that charts the evolution of perspectives on preserving our cultural heritage and establishes valuable context and purpose for the field ... The crossdisciplinary approach of this anthology is immensely useful and revealing as to how professionals across disciplines have been thinking and talking about longevity, reversibility, enduring value, and authenticity, among other topics."
— Journal of Western Archives

"The particular pedagogical strength of this book lies in its multidisciplinary approach to the subject matter. Preservation is considered in multiple settings: libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions ... an invaluable resource for all who consider preservation among their core professional responsibilities."
— New England Archivists Newsletter