Preservation of library materials extends the availability of our books, documents, and maps. Conservation work is part of daily life in the Portland Room, where the Library’s special collections and archives are based. In the past 4 years, we have restored an average of 100 items per year- right in the Portland Room- library materials which could not be handled before, due to their physical condition. Now these items are accessible to you, our patrons! As well, we are often called upon to answer questions about book and paper conservation- so bring your questions, too.
Among our projects has been a restoration of the art and artisanry books which had been in the old Portland Public Library (the Baxter Building). These books are in the Portland Room, and nearly all repaired!
Here (below) is a glimpse of how a book is rebound and recased, using archival materials and practices:
a book which has separated from its case, due to embrittlement, will require a rebinding of signatures (the pages) and a new case (the cover)
a careful process of realigning signatures and rebinding them, followed by creating new endpapers, and applying cotton mesh and headband ribbons
the new case under construction, with conservation-grade bookcloth to match the original- and a new spine-backing (at the center)
the old case is at left; the new case gets a “dry fit,” to make perfectly sure it meets the requirements of the newly-rebound textblock
now to the press, with wooden rods placed in the exterior hinges of the new case
et voilà! the restored book in its new case, with the original gold-tooled titling and spine labels grafted onto the book as the finishing touches.
An image from our Archives, taken on November 9, 1958. In the photograph, the Harold T. Andrews Post American Legion Drum & Bugle Corps greeting the destroyer U.S.S. Brownson at Portland Harbor, anticipating the commemoration of Veterans Day.
Image from Portland Press Herald Still Film Negative Collection, Portland Public Library Archives.
The study of photographic records allows us to sharpen our keen eyes for details. Sometimes there are legible license plates on cars, signs along roads, even wall calendars in rooms- helping identify when a picture was taken.
In this example (below), we can tell wherea picture was taken, by noticing a landmark. The photo was taken in 1957 by a Portland Press Herald photographer, and we can know the exact location by recognizing the Customs House in the background. Looking from the waterfront toward the Customs House, the Customs House Wharf is at left, and the Maine Pier (today’s Maine State Pier) is at right. Today’s Casco Bay ferries dock right where this fishing boat is pictured.
_________________________________________________________________________________________And here (just below) is the U.S. Customs House, which opened in 1872.