Preservation & Conservation

Paper repair, leather consolidation, sewing an endband

Preservation & Conservation

The University of Hong Kong Libraries (HKUL) established an in-house conservation laboratory within the Preservation Centre (PC) in 2010. The University of Hong Kong (HKU) was the pioneering and only academic institution based in Hong Kong to have a dedicated facility to preserve books and other paper-based materials. PC supports the Libraries’ and the University’s mission by working to sustain and enhance the collections and make items accessible for future generations. PC’s priority is to maximise the lifespan and usefulness of all library holdings, develop preservation related policies and guidelines, conduct condition assessments, provide preservation recommendations, and educate staff, students, and scholars to raise the awareness of preservation and conservation. PC has a team of 4 conservators and 4 conservation technicians who perform basic to complex conservation treatments on collections including the University’s Western and Eastern rare books, archives and manuscripts, photographs and prints, architectural drawings and maps, and works of art on paper. A significant percentage of rare collections within HKUL and historical materials held in institutions across the region are in urgent need of conservation treatment and digitisation. These materials are irreplaceable and are invaluable sources for understanding Hong Kong’s past, which is the foundation for its future.

Over the past decade, PC has responded to the enormous and growing need for preservation expertise, expanding its services to make significant contributions to safeguarding cultural and historical heritage at HKU and in the broader community. Beyond the universities, other archives and library leaders in the greater Hong Kong region have consistently recognised its expertise. PC has conserved treasures from the HSBC Archives, Swire Archives, Jockey Club Archives, Department of Justice Library, M+ Museum/West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, and the Sik Sik Yuen Cultural Centre. PC has also provided services for numerous private institutions and individuals. This service is not available anywhere else in Hong Kong.

HKUL has the facilities and professional team in an academic institution that can be trusted to take care of these precious materials at HKU. Further development and improvements must rely on contributions from individuals, trusts, corporations, and foundations to help meet the growing need for preservation and conservation in the region.

HKUL seeks to enhance its capacity in providing resources, services and facilities that are beyond its existing financial capabilities. Funding is required to strengthen the library’s vision to “advance the teaching, learning, research and knowledge exchange”, to help make the rare historical materials accessible to all, and preserve cultural heritage in Hong Kong and beyond. Your unwavering support will also assist us in continuing our efforts to expand our activities and become a world-class preservation centre. HKUL seeks HK$10,000,000 to further develop the Preservation Centre located on the fourteenth floor of the Hing Wai Centre in Aberdeen. The funding will be invested into equipment and facilities upgrades, staffing for conservation work, preservation outreach and education.

Facilities Improvements, Specialised Equipment and Conservation Materials - HK$4,000,000

The conservation laboratory is in an aging 1980s industrial building with an uncontrolled environment, as well as frequent water leaks and mould outbreaks. The environment has been a significant challenge for PC and is far from ideal for storage or treatment of rare collections. An upgrade of the building’s infrastructure is urgently needed, including retrofitting the laboratory space with an industry-standard ventilation system to control temperature and humidity levels and purify the air. 24/7 control of the air conditioning system is essential to maintaining the short and long-term health of objects undergoing conservation treatment. Other necessary improvements include linoleum flooring, LED lighting, and ergonomic workbenches and chairs.

Critical equipment currently lacking from our laboratory is a laser-driven box-making machine and an ultrasonic film welding device. These pieces of equipment are routinely used to create archival-quality storage supplies, which are indispensable for the long-term preservation of collections in a variety of formats. The equipment will also significantly improve staff efficiency and build a larger capacity for PC to serve the broader Hong Kong community.

Staffing Endowment and Conservation Treatments – HK$ 4,000,000

Based on a five-year projection for preservation work to be carried out at HKUL, it is necessary for us to hire project-based conservators and conservation technicians to assist with treatments and digitization projects. This funding also will provide internships and fellowship opportunities for students and emerging conservators to work directly with our conservation experts to facilitate knowledge sharing.

One of the top priorities is to have additional professional staff to perform remedial treatment on the East-Asian rare books held in the Fung Ping Shan Libraries. 151 titles (2253 fascicles) from this unique and invaluable collection are identified in critical condition and waiting for treatment. Some of them are Song or Yuan Dynasty editions that are rarely seen globally. After treatment, the collections will be available to scholars worldwide, and the overall value and historical significance will be maximised.

In addition, providing preservation support to meet the dire needs of HKUL’s digital transformation is another priority. Digital access is an increasingly crucial part in serving our patrons and scholars. Not only will the researchers be able to visit, handle and study the collections as a primary source, but the content of the collections will also be made discoverable globally through the internet and digital repository after conservation and digitisation. Your donation will simultaneously support digital humanities scholarship, promote HKUL’s unique collections and benefit the broader community to shape the history and the body of knowledge in humanity.

Professional Education and Preservation Outreach - HK$ 2,000,000

Over the past decade, PC has collaboratively developed professional training sessions for participants working in the GLAM (Galleries, Library, Archives, and Museums) sector in Hong Kong and mainland China. There are also very few regional opportunities for conservators or practitioners in the GLAM sector to further develop their knowledge and skills in this discipline. Bringing in experts from overseas to lead training courses and workshops directly benefits library staff and colleagues across the region.

PC has also created activities to engage with the general public. Practical workshops, laboratory tours, and preservation-related exhibitions were designed to encourage participants to work with their hands and give individuals a glimpse behind the scenes. PC is devoted to educating the general public about preservation and conservation and raising awareness of cultural heritage’s significance through dynamic outreach activities. The interdisciplinary nature of conservation (craftsmanship, science, art history) also inspires the community to think innovatively by taking a fresh look at old objects and to discover through the material culture perspective.

In sum, with your financial partnership with the Preservation and Conservation at HKUL, we can share Hong Kong’s history and heritage for future generations through various means and initiatives and, in doing so, enhance general education about the crucial role played by conservation. None of these would be possible without the generosity of individuals and partner organisations.

We need your help more than ever!

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