WASHINGTON–The conservation division of the Library of Congress restores and cares for artifacts—paper, photos and books—in the Library’s massive collection. Projects can range from the large Waldseemuller Map, the only known remaining copy of the map that first labeled the New World as America, currently on display in the library’s Jefferson building, to paper prints of early motion pictures, now the only record of these pre-Hollywood films since the original film has been lost.
Conservators go through intensive programs in art, art history and chemistry—more organic chemistry than pre-med majors—at one of just three universities nationwide that offer certification in conservation. After classes and internships, some join the Library of Congress’s team, where they work with the nation’s massive collection of artifacts.
I talked to Dana Hemmenway, a photograph conservator, Susan Peckham, a paper conservator, and chief conservator Elmer Eusman about their work, their training and the coolest things about their job.