Conservation Lab

Conservation Lab

The Conservation Department was established in 1980 following a general survey of the Library’s collection by the Northeast Document Conservation Center. The Conservation Lab staff includes a preservation administrator, two conservators, and three conservation assistants, responsible for collections maintenance and the conservation of the Library’s books, photographs, and archives.

The Conservation Lab occupies approximately 1,700 square feet and is divided into multiple special-purpose rooms. Treatments and preservation procedures are performed using traditional and specialized equipment.

Treatments are carried out in accordance with current conservation principles outlined in the American Institute for Conservation's Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. When possible, treatments are minimally invasive, reversible, and maintain the integrity of the original object.

The Conservation staff performs item-level treatments on damaged materials from the general, special collections and Archives. Damaged and/or fragile materials are identified during use by library staff and patrons and by Conservation staff through selective surveys of the collections.

Items are individually evaluated to determine treatments appropriate to their age and structure in conformity with current conservation practices.

Library’s Collections

The majority of books in the Collection were produced in Europe and the United States between the late-sixteenth and the twenty-first centuries. The collection is comprised of case bindings, laced in-board bindings, limp vellum and paper case bindings, and photograph albums. In addition, unbound paper-based documents such as architectural blueprints and drawings, photographs, portfolios of loose plates, and printed ephemera are found among the collection’s holdings.

The Frick Collection & Helen Clay Frick Foundation’s Archives Collection

Architectural drawings and bound items from the HCFF and TFC Archives are periodically selected for treatment. Surface cleaning, tape removal, humidification, flattening, tissue repairs and lining are some of the treatments performed on collections. Items selected for treatment receive condition assessment reports and many are digitized prior to re-housing.

Structural Problems in Materials

Routinely encountered problems with book material include detached boards and spines, broken sewing, torn or brittle paper, and pressure-sensitive tapes. Routine treatments may require reversing damage created by inappropriate repairs.


The Conservation staff carries out treatments that employ both conservation and bookbinding techniques. Minor treatments to stabilize books can include surface cleaning, paper mending, plate hinging, joint strengthening, and reattaching boards. Damaged and fragile materials that require minor treatments are generally returned to the stacks within one week. Major treatments include humidification and flattening of boards or paper, stain removal, aqueous and non-aqueous alkalization, water-soluble and pressure-sensitive tape removal, resewing, rebacking and recasing in paper, cloth, leather, and parchment. Treatment reports contain written and photographic documentation.