RIT Awarded Two Grants to Preserve Library Collections and Target Energy Savings

National Endowment for the Humanities awards Image Permanence Institute nearly $650,000

Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

Energy consultant Peter Herzog of Herzog /Wheeler & Associates (right) reviews floor plans at the Birmingham Public Library in Birmingham, Ala. RIT’s Image Permanence Institute is working with various cultural institutions across the country to investigate how to reduce energy costs without compromising the preservation of their collections.

The Image Permanence Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology has received two grants totaling $648,405 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The National Endowment for the Humanities Research and Development program will provide $399,925 to the Image Permanence Institute to fund Methodologies for Sustainable Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning Operation in Collection Environments.

This three-year project started in May and will investigate the best methods to ensure that library, archives and museum collections are not harmed by short-term environmental fluctuations made to reduce energy costs.

In addition, the NEH has committed $248,480 to Sustainable Preservation Practices for Managing Storage Environments, a two-year education and training project, which began January 1. This project will enable collections care staff in cultural institutions to avoid risks to collections while supporting sustainability efforts and energy-cost reductions. During the same period, the Image Permanence Institute is completing work on a $580,174 project funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services titled Research on Energy Savings Opportunities in Libraries.

Many cultural institutions maintain tightly controlled, energy-intensive environments for their collections and exhibition spaces. For budgetary reasons and due to concerns about global climate change, these institutions are searching for ways to achieve significant reductions in energy use without compromising the preservation quality of collection environments.

The institute is trying a variety of strategies in the field. Perhaps the most common is to take advantage of unoccupied hours during which thermostats can be set back or energy-consuming heating, venting and air conditioning equipment turned off. Such actions may adversely affect the preservation quality of collection environments, they may have no effect, or they may even be beneficial.

The research and development project will allow research scientists to investigate and validate a new environmental management methodology for typical collection objects and circumstances aimed at reducing energy costs without compromising the life span of collections. It is believed that such an approach can relieve some of the financial strain on libraries and archives. The goal is to provide a practical way for collections care professionals to assess the risks or benefits of dynamic changes in environmental conditions and to make informed environmental management decisions. The project includes laboratory research, field study and modeling. The Image Permanence Institute will conduct the field study in collaboration with RIT Libraries and RIT Facilities Management Services.

Upon completion of research, the institute will create a field-guide style publication explaining the results in plain language and providing a usable method for monitoring collection storage environments and estimating the impact of short-term fluctuations. Research findings will also be made available online and in technical papers, conference presentations, workshops and other professional venues. The education and training project will provide instruction and guidance derived from the latest research and field practice in leading U.S. and European museums and libraries to a national audience of collections care and facilities management staff in cultural institutions.

Through a series of regional workshops and webinars, institute staff will provide information and tools that will allow project participants to make informed decisions based on current research, reliable data, and a fact-based understanding of the relationship between environment and material decay. To register for the workshops and webinars, visit http://ipisustainability.org. Venues include Yale University Library, Georgia Archives and Capitol Museum, Minnesota Historical Society, University of California, Los Angeles and the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. The webinars will focus on the practical application of sustainable practices in collecting institutions. Participants will receive a detailed Sustainable Preservation Practices workbook and access to a range of online tools and resources. The goal is to enhance participants' ability to assess the preservation quality of environmental conditions, understand the basics of HVAC operations and identify strategies for energy cost reductions without sacrificing the preservation quality of collection environments.

In his letter of support for the National Endowment for the Humanities Education and Training grant, Lawrence Reger, president, Heritage Preservation wrote, “The Image Permanence Institute is the most innovative and leading organization addressing environmental needs for collections in the museum, library, and archival fields.”

About The Image Permanence Institute

The Image Permanence Institute, part of RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, is a recognized world leader in the development and deployment of sustainable practices for the preservation of images and cultural property. The institute accomplishes this through a balanced program of research, education, products and services that meet the needs of individuals, companies, and institutions.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.