Sometimes things seem destined to be.

When organizers were looking for a partner organization for Preservation in Action 2018 in New Orleans, they found the perfect place with the perfect name: Preservation Hall.

Since 1961, Preservation Hall has been instrumental in perpetuating traditional New Orleans jazz, despite the ascendancy and dominance of rock and roll. Aficionados and tourists pack the tiny venue in the French Quarter five times a night, more than 350 night a year, to hear jazz virtuosos perform an infectious acoustic set. Additionally, Preservation Hall has a touring band that performs around the world. It’s third component, the Preservation Hall Foundation was created in 2011. The foundation’s mission centers around educating future generations of jazz musicians, outreach into the New Orleans community and beyond, and the establishment of a permanent archive containing “tens of thousands of documents, instruments, artwork and other historically important artifacts collected by Preservation Hall over the past 50 years.”

PiA hopes to promote library preservation by exposing up-and-coming librarians to preservation concepts and techniques—like Ginny Barnes, a student in the Master of Science in Information Studies program at the University of Texas – Austin.

Preservation in Action (PiA) is a yearly event held in the host city of the American Library Association’s Annual Conference. It’s organized by members of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS). PiA brings librarians of all types to a local cultural institution during the convention to help organize and protect part of its collection—at the same time, promoting library preservation itself. The expertise comes from the PARS members who are preservation librarians, and book and paper conservators. They guide and teach the other librarians who sign up to help, as well as the staff of the local institution who carry on preserving the collection long after ALA has left town.

This year, the group of librarians gathered at the Preservation Hall Foundation in the French Quarter to rehouse photographs from the Preservation Hall archives. PiA organizers taught the other librarians how to safely handle the photos and how to properly store and catalog them, as well as various historical photographic processes. The photos were safely rehoused into Super Heavy-Duty Sheet and Photo Protectors and Archival Document Cases.

Ann Marie Willer, Director of Preservation Services at Northeast Document Conservation Center discusses a method to standardize data for cataloging the photos.

The photos represented the works of several photographers, including prominent art photographer Lee Friedlander, as well as hundreds of photos by Grauman Marks, an amateur photographer known for documenting the New Orleans jazz scene.

Ashley Shabankareh, Director of Programs, says the foundation hopes to eventually have its jazz archive accessible by researchers in person, as well as online. She ended the day-long PiA session feeling encouraged. “Having this many individuals that care about the work, makes me energized and excited to continue [the preservation work],” she said. “You feel you get pigeonholed in these boxes, where you think, ‘Oh my collection looks like this, and it’s terrible.’ And I have all these individuals going, ‘No, it’s okay. It just needs a little bit of work, and it’ll be fine.’ It’s so comforting to work with this many individuals that have that mindset.”

White cotton gloves have fallen out of favor for handling rare books and papers. Nitrile gloves are used, however, for preventing fingerprints when handling photographs and negatives.

With the event in New Orleans PiA marked its third year, and the second year of sponsorship by Archival Products. Previous events were held in Orlando and Chicago. Next June, ALA holds its convention in Washington, D.C. Archival Products hopes to continue to serve as corporate sponsor.

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