Friday, October 18, 2013

Paul Banks' 10 Laws of Preservation

I have this sheet of paper which floats around my work bench and on it are written Paul Banks' 10 Laws of Preservation. One day a while back I located the text of these 10 laws and did a quick reformat a single page mini-poster. I still haven't mounted the sheet anywhere. It just lies around occasionally getting in the way, which means I occasionally have to move it, which gives me the opportunity to once again reread them.

Paul Banks was an incredibly influential conservator first at the Newberry Library, and then went on to start the conservation program at Columbia University. I don't know for what reason he created his 10 laws of preservation, but I find they express the wisdom of a life-time of experience.

Paul Banks' 10 Laws of Preservation

No one has access to a document that doesn't exist
Multiplication/dispersal increases survival
Physical medium of a book/document contains information
No reproduction can contain all information contained in the original
Conservation treatment is interpretation
Authenticity cannot be restored
No treatment is reversible
Use causes wear
Books and documents deteriorate all the time
Deterioration is irreversible

Many of these laws are book/document focused. It would be interesting to read a 10 laws of digital preservation, or perhaps even a 10 laws of preservation that was relevant to all type of media.

(Added later) What new Laws of Preservation would you add? What has your experience of working with preservation taught you about the bigger preservation picture?

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