Collection care

What is collection care?

Collection care ensures that the Library’s rich and extensive collections are available to all those who wish to use them. Equally important is the obligation to preserve the collections for use and discovery by current and future generations. The Library’s collections include many diverse formats: books and serials, as well as manuscripts, prints, drawings and paintings, photographs and negatives, architectural plans and maps, realia, film, oral history and sound recordings. Collection care is divided into a number of teams of highly skilled conservators, registrars and storage specialists with responsibility for preventive conservation, collections and storage; paper and photographs; books,  objects and paintings; digitisation; and exhibitions and loans.

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Preventive conservation and storage

The Library’s preventive conservators and storage specialists work across all collection, display and staff areas of the Library to manage the appropriate storage of collections to ensure that over 130 linear km of collections are protected from damage, that client access is maintained and also plan for continued collection growth in the decades ahead.

The Preventive Conservation team is responsible for identifying and managing risk to collections; working with our Facilities Branch to provide integrated pest management across the Library; counter disaster and salvage procedures; and for providing safe manual handling training, advice and guidelines for staff and visitors to ensure the risk to the Library’s working collection is minimised.

Preventive conservators also ensure stable environmental standards and conditions are monitored and maintained across the various collection formats. Monitoring light, temperature, and relative humidity are critical in significantly reducing, or controlling damage and deterioration of collections.

Conservation treatment

The conservators are responsible for the treatment of the Library’s diverse and extensive collections. Collection material is assessed and prioritised for in-depth treatment or for quick, stabilising repairs that allow items to continue to be used without further damage.

Man and woman looking at paper being digitised


The Library has an active programme of collection digitisation to facilitate access and discovery of its collections. The digitisation team assesses the condition of collection items to be digitised and recommends and carries out treatments to stabilise or repair items ready for digital scanning. The Digitisation team advises on collection handling, scanning equipment and appropriate item supports, and ensures safe and timely digitisation of our collections.

Exhibitions and loans

The Library has a dynamic program of onsite exhibitions and displays. These can include works from our collection and incoming loans. The registrars and conservators assess and prepare all items for display, working with exhibition designers and curators to make items accessible in new and interesting ways.

The Library also has an active outgoing loans programme to cultural organisations regionally, nationally and internationally. The Library’s Registrars manage and coordinate the loans programme while balancing the Library’s obligation for the care, safety and security of the collection, and the increasing demands on physical access to original items. They arrange for the insurance, packing, safe transportation, handling and display of items, and their rehousing on return from loan.

Endeavour: Conservation of a Logbook

James Cook's voyage in Endeavour, 1768-1771, was the first European expedition to include scientific discovery as a major objective. When the Library’s fair copy of his logbook was brought to our conservation lab for examination, its binding had completely failed, and the deteriorated iron gall ink had significantly cracked and broken the paper. Its degraded state meant the logbook could not be used or displayed without causing further damage sparking a major research project that culminated in a comprehensive treatment to ensure its preservation.

Extensive microchemical and analytical testing identified the material composition and treatment history and a preferred treatment plan was developed. Library conservators also examined all other known copies of the logbook, visiting the National Library of Australia, The National Archives, Kew and The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Treatment of the logbook was completed by a team of seven conservators over a year and included aqueous washing and deacidification of the pages to remove harmful components and return strength and flexibility to the paper allowing it to once again be exhibited and accessed by researchers.