By Nicole Prawl with introduction by Barbara Reeve
The world’s heritage is at risk as never before from climate change, conflict, and in competition for a meaningful share of government funds in the face of slowing global economies. In conserving local sites and objects, traditional crafts and artistic skills, and the knowledge of working with natural and modern materials, conservators safeguard the world’s cultural diversity. Preserving the multi-layered stories and contexts of artistic and heritage objects ensures the transmission of cultural identity from one generation to the next. The International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) plays a vital role in this process.
IIC links conservators in a world-wide partnership and exchange of heritage preservation knowledge and practice. The IIC Opportunities Fund, established in 2010, enables conservators and heritage managers from every country around the globe to access this resourceful community of professionals.
The experience of one of the IIC Opportunities Fund recipient organisations, the National Library of Jamaica, is described in the article below.
The IIC Council is currently seeking nominations from heritage organisations in economically challenged countries whose work would benefit from joining the IIC's international network. Awarded organisations will receive a two-year IIC Institutional Membership through the Opportunities Fund.
More information about the Opportunities Fund and a link to the nominee application can be found here: https://www.iiconservation.org/about/awards/opportunities
Barbara H.C. Reeve
IIC Council Member, Opportunities Fund
Q: How and why does your organization support heritage preservation in your country or region?
A: The National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) was established in 1979 from the West India Reference Library (WIRL). The West India Reference Library began as a small collection of Jamaican and West Indian books under the guidance of Frank Cundall, the secretary/librarian of the Institute from 1891 until his death in 1937. It developed into a comprehensive collection, rich in primary source materials covering all aspects of Caribbean life and society. WIRL formed the nucleus of the National Library.
The collection consists of maps, plans, periodicals, prints, manuscripts, film and sound, cds, newspapers, and papers on microfilms. One of the mandates of the NLJ is to preserve and provide access to Jamaican material in all formats. With this mandate in mind the NLJ established its book binding facility. However, it was in the early 1980’s that the conservation aspect was brought to the forefront because of the rapid deterioration of material due primarily to poor storage and environmental factors such as collection storage not maintaining acceptable temperatures and poor lighting. The library management at the time decided to invest in the staff by finding training opportunities for them in the areas of paper and audio-visual conservation. Training was not available locally (and still is not) in these areas, so members of our staff were sent to places such as Venezuela and England for training. The services of a conservator from Sweden were also obtained for training staff members in the areas of matting and map restoration.
The NLJ continues to pass on this training through in-house activities such as job rotation, staff training, and internships. Externally, the importance of the preservation of cultural heritage is passed on through outreach activities such as the teaching of preservation courses at the University of the West Indies, tours offered to students at the primary and secondary levels, presentations and panel discussions, and workshops—one being a workshop on preservation that is held by the University annually.
The heritage of the Jamaican nation is one that is irreplaceable, and the NLJ is cognizant of this and does its best to take its preservation role seriously. Even with limited resources the Library continues to support the preservation and conservation of Jamaica’s cultural heritage so that it can be available for future generations interested in the history and culture of this beautiful island.
Q: What assistance has the National Library of Jamaica received from the IIC Opportunities Fund, and how has this benefited your organization?
A: The IIC Opportunities Fund has provided the NLJ with free IIC Membership and an accompanying free subscription to the IIC publications, including Studies in Conservation.
The International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) is an international conservation body that is world-renowned. Being part of this organization has greatly helped the NLJ; through IIC’s worldwide network of conservation and heritage management professionals, we can consult with other professionals who share our interests and challenges which can lead to possible solutions and a chance to exchange ideas with colleagues. Through these networking opportunities collaborations, such as publishing articles and presentations in different forums, are made possible.
In addition, attendance at the IIC congresses, made possible with help from the Getty Foundation, IIC, and the NLJ, have also helped us to remain aware of new developments happening in the conservation world; these forums are platforms for the dissemination of so much information about conservation in all its forms.
The publications Studies in Conservation and News in Conservation are helpful resources as they make us aware of the discussions, the investigations, and findings that are happening in the conservation literature. We have been especially grateful for these publications because, for a long time, our institution did not have journals of this nature. We have also been able to take part in webinars and online discussions.
Q: What can your organization contribute to the IIC’s worldwide network of conservation and heritage management professionals?
A: The NLJ can contribute to IIC’s worldwide network of conservation and heritage management professionals by doing the following:
· Becoming an institutional member who is willing to be a part of collaborations and other outreach activities
· Being an organization that can be consulted on issues in conservation as it relates to the Caribbean
· Disseminate best practices in conservation to developing countries in the Caribbean
· Helping to make persons in the region aware of IIC’s values, missions, and activities
Head of the Preservation and Conservation Department
National Library of Jamaica
Nicole Prawl is the head of the Preservation and Conservation Department of the National Library of Jamaica. She joined the department in 2013 and has implemented an integrated pest management program and an environmental monitoring system in the Library. She has a great interest in preventative conservation and, with the help of her teammates, carries out the business of preserving Jamaica’s cultural history.
(Full article published in "News in Conservation" Issue 71, April 2019 https://issuu.com/nic_iiconservation/docs/nic-new-format-issuu-april2019...)