Objective: An item-level survey was undertaken to reveal the preservation needs of a unique collection of rare medical historical folios and oversize anatomical atlases at the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University.
Methodology: During a re-shelving project, surveyors noted detailed preservation information in a FileMakerPro database. Recorded information included: dimensions, whether a new enclosure was needed, external status (condition of boards, spine, cover), internal status (cover-to-text attachment, paper), attributes (covering material, binding type, inclusions, bookplate owner, decoration), value/damage (value, damage summary, treatment summary), and photos.
Results and Conclusions: Survey data revealed vital information for determining preservation priorities. The surveyors found that 13% of the collection was "significantly damaged" and 30% was in "poor condition." A query of the survey tool identified the approximate value of the damaged folios and priority was subsequently given to items designated as "treasures to the institution." The survey also revealed which items required immediate treatment for concerns such as active mold that threatened the security of neighboring materials. The surveyors recorded attributes of interest to historians and researchers (provenance, unusual bindings, the presence of hand-painted illustrations, etc..) which were used to identify items for exhibits. Special handling instructions were also assigned to fragile items to prevent future damage. Finally, the folio survey resulted in a proof-of-concept for other item-level surveys of valuable collections. Once conducted, the survey prevented further handling of rare materials and resulted in concrete information needed to make preservation decisions.