Preservation Efforts

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About scroll preservation efforts

The University of Hawaii at Manoa Library has a Preservation Department. They mend, restore, and monitor library materials in house. The staff have been very dedicated in helping to preserve the Library’s collections including the Sakamaki/Hawley Collection materials. This is NOW. Back then, the preservation concept in universities was quite different. Especially outside the Library such as Dr. Sakamaki’s office where the Collection was housed, there was no such a concept of “preservation.” Even though the collections were quite rare, they were primarily treated as research materials. After Dr. Sakamaki’s passing, the Hawley Collection along with Dr. Sakamaki’s personal collections were transferred to Hamilton Library in early 1970s.

In 1999 a conservator from the Honolulu Academy of Arts was invited to examine the rare items in the Sakamaki/Hawley Collection. He identified four rolls of rare scrolls that need to be restored to preserve them for the future. As the condition of these was especially bad, he prohibited the Library to even unroll them until some measures were implemented. Assessing the condition and identifying the needs were the first step but getting them restored is another story. The Library faced a daunting challenge.

Just a bit of technical terms that one should be aware of. Usually the textbook definition of the terms, “conservation, restoration, and preservation” are:

Conservation - refers to "specific practices taken to slow deterioration and prolong the life of an object/material by directly intervening in its physical or chemical make-up." (Example: mending damaged bindings or de-acidifying paper).

Restoration - refers to "activities that seek to return a damaged object/material to its original form/state." In other words, it is an intervention that will change an object/material in such a way that it is rarely reversible.

Preservation - includes "all the managerial and financial considerations, including storage and accommodation provisions, staffing levels, policies, techniques, and methods involved in preserving library and archival materials and the information contained in them."

The words "its original form/state" under Restoration were highlighted, because it is fairly obvious that the goal is to return something to its original state but the fact that it is being changed or "fixed" means by definition that it is not in an original state.

first scrollAn article by a conservator at the Alaska State Museum was read "Restoration is an attempt to return a material to a state where normal preservation activities can resume." This is exactly what the scroll restoration project was all about. In reality, a 200-year-old scroll cannot be returned to its original state; however, the restoration will mend the scroll as closely as possible to its original state and with proper preservation care, we will not have to worry about further deterioration. It allows the scroll to be handled and viewed by researchers and by the public. So an intervention should be a minimum level by a highly trained conservator.

Therefore, the factors needed to complete this challenge are:

1.Gain support for the project from the University and community.
2.Find a highly qualified conservator, who agrees to work on our scrolls.
3.Raise funds to complete the restoration.

Much time and energy were spent to build this support, which eventually led to the Library's fundraising efforts.

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Contact: Tokiko Y. Bazzell, Japan Specialist Librarian
Asia Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa Library
2550 McCarthy Mall, Honolulu, HI 96822 U.S.A
Email: tokiko@hawaii.edu phn: 808-956-2315