The Johns Hopkins
Sheridan Libraries have been awarded $792,000 from the
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch a pilot program for
postdoctoral fellows in heritage conservation science.
Two heritage conservation fellows will be selected each
year in an international competition to address a vetted
scientific research agenda during the two-and-a-half-year
initiative, based in the libraries' Conservation and
The program will provide opportunities for the
fellows to collaborate with faculty and students in the
Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering's Department of Materials
Johns Hopkins Museums and area institutions such as
historical societies. Their investigations will emphasize
research relevant to materials in libraries, archives and
other cultural heritage organizations.
For 20 years, libraries, archives and granting
agencies have focused attention and resources on
collection care and mass preventive action, such as
environmental controls. While this approach has proven
effective, it has not afforded the opportunity for studies
in materials science that would inform specific
conservation treatments and techniques.
"The Sheridan Libraries' conservation program was the
first in the country to offer apprenticeships and
internships to train conservators at the bench," said
Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and
Museums at Johns Hopkins. "It is particularly fitting that
at a research-intensive university like Hopkins we will
now have the opportunity to collaborate with our
colleagues at the Whiting School, not only to generate a
new body of research but also to invigorate
and sustain the profession."
The creation of the postdoctoral fellows program was
one of the recommendations of a group of 23
internationally recognized conservators and applied
research scientists that was convened in April 2008 to
develop a detailed set of proposals to address the
research/development activities needed to conserve the
nation's book and paper materials.
An integral part of the conservation fellows' research
agenda will be engaging industry partners.
"Conservators are dependent upon the products industry
provides to conduct conservation treatment," said Sophia
Jordan-Mowery, the Joseph Ruzicka and Marie Ruzicka
Feldmann Director of Library Conservation and
Preservation, and principal investigator for the project.
"Yet industrial products, their formulations and their
applications are judged by how well they serve the
conservator's needs. Engaging industry in the entire chain
of production and application will serve both
the market and the cultural heritage organizations,"
William Minter, principal of William Minter
Bookbinding and Conservation, will serve as the senior
project conservator. An internationally recognized
conservator of heritage collections for many U.S.
libraries, museums and archives, he has successfully merged
the roles of conservator, inventor and scientist.
More than 30 years ago, Minter pioneered and developed
the ultrasonic welder for the encapsulation of brittle
and otherwise endangered documents and art materials.
Today, nearly 200 encapsulation machines — now
considered standard equipment in conservation labs —
are used for preservation at institutions around the
world. Minter also has conducted independent testing and
review of conservation treatments, evaluated long-term
of industry products used by conservators and re-examined
earlier research to determine the validity of testing and
An advisory board chaired by Jordan-Mowery and
comprising experts from academic, conservation,
scientific and industry sectors will set the strategic
agenda for research and solicit calls for proposals from
the scientific community. Board members include Minter;
Jonah Erlebacher, associate professor in Materials Science
and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Nels Olson, an
analytical chemist and former chief of the Preservation
Research and Testing Division at the Library of
Congress; and David Grattan, manager of conservation
research services at the Canadian Conservation
The board will review fellowship applications and
recommend awards beginning this spring for project
initiation in the fall of 2009.