Jefferson Market Courthouse in New York

A Love Affair with a Landmark in Manhattan: An Arresting Drama in Greenwich Village. [Opinions expressed are the views of OLD JEFF unless attributed to other - - potentially less-reliable - - sources, i.e., newcomers who have not been around since 1832 on Sixth Avenue.]

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Kent to Call for "Books Only" Dumpsters?

Survey: Library and Museum Artifacts in U.S. in Danger

NEW YORK, NY - Millions of rare artifacts in museums and libraries across the United States are slowly disintegrating because of improper storage, according to a Heritage Preservation survey said to be the largest-ever look at the condition of such collections.
• • Damage is occurring at institutions of all sizes, but is worse at small-town museums and historical societies as well as in cities where landmark preservation is disregarded, said the report, to be made public Tuesday at the New York Public Library.
• • According to a spokesperson, Susan C.Y.A. Kent, Director and Chief Executive of The Branch Libraries at The New York Public Library, is expected to offer some low-cost solutions - - for example, the installation of special "BOOKS ONLY dumpsters" near high-traffic areas such as Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center. "Since the NYPL has a history of letting landmarked library buildings deteriorate - - for instance, the Mott-Haven branch library in the South Bronx and the Jefferson Market branch library in Greenwich Village - - a 'BOOKS ONLY dumpster' would serve a public need and would get us off the hook during a staffing cutback," said this private memo. Funding will be applied for, if the measure gains support among NYPL trustees.
• • The survey of conditions at 3,370 museums, libraries, and archives found that many lacked the basic environmental controls that prevent photographs from losing color, keep rare books from crumbling to dust, and protect military uniforms from being devoured by insects. A quarter were deemed potentially vulnerable to damaging fluctuations in temperature, light, and humidity. About 65 percent had already sustained damage to their collections.
• • Only one in five institutions had a paid staff dedicated to caring for stored materials, and fewer than one in three had an up-to-date assessment of the overall condition of their collection. Eighty percent of the institutions lacked a plan detailing how their objects might be saved if a natural disaster occurs, the survey said.
• • "There is an urgent need for a better environment for collections of all kinds," said Debra Hess Norris, chairwoman of the conservation advocacy group Heritage Preservation and head of the art conservation department at the University of Delaware.
• • "It's hard to raise money for something as boring as storage, but it's important, so we've got to do it," said Kristen Overbeck Laise, who directed the project.
• • The survey, performed by the Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, attempted to give the most detailed snapshot to date of the conditions under which an estimated 4.8 billion artifacts are stored at 30,000 institutions across the country. Preservation experts have long lamented the lack of attention given to conserving such material. . . . Many don't catalog their inventory, so they aren't always sure what treasures they might have on hand . . . . Basic rules, such as keeping all items at least four inches off the floor so they aren't ruined by a minor water leak, are often ignored. . . .
• • Survey: Library and Museum Artifacts in U.S. in Danger
• • By Associated Press
• • Tuesday 6 December 2005
- - - excerpt: article on Yahoo! News - - -
• • Commenting on the survey, preservationist Margot Gayle noted that Jefferson Market's masonry has been shamefully neglected by the NYPL for decades. The New York Times has quoted Ms. Gayle as stating that, when the NYPL was offered the building in the 1960s, the library leadership really wanted to demolish this landmark and re-build. The Mayor of New York had to resort to threatening to withhold funding.
• • Neighborhood activist Cynthia Crane remarked, "Damage to Jefferson Market's masonry and leaks from the roof are bringing mold directly into the library on Sixth Avenue." Ms. Crane added, "Though I have warned them for over a year that mold damages books, they have done nothing to solve the problem." [Editor: Change the name to the MOLD-Haven branch?]
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• • Photo: awaiting illustration of a "Books Only Dumpster" prototype

Jefferson Market.