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University conservator helps save libraries in Peru

Shortly after conducting flood damage assessment and preservation work at the Czech and Slovak National Museum and Library and African-American Museum in Cedar Rapids, University of Iowa Libraries Conservator Gary Frost traveled to Peru to help conserve antiquarian libraries in the former Spanish colonial city of Arequipa.

spacer Gary Frost at Arequipa library
Librarians in Arequipa, Peru, received recovery assistance from UI Libraries Conservator Gary Frost. Arequipa libraries sustained damage from earthquakes. Photo courtesy of Gary Frost.
   

Last November, Frost visited Arequipa, Peru, at former UI librarian Helen Ryan's invitation to assist in preservation assessment of the historical libraries in the area. Frost returned to Arequipa July 7 for a two-week trip to provide further assistance along with colleagues from two other universities. Frost and his team assessed preservation risks and advised local librarians on how to protect exhibits, as well as giving advice on storage and conservation. They worked on saving a collection from a condemned, earthquake-damaged library.

The team's progress can be seen at http://arequipabooks.wordpress.com.

Arequipa is in the southern region of Peru near the border with Chile. With a population of one million, it is the country's second largest city. The city is 40 miles from the coast and surrounded by volcanoes and expansive canyon lands. The region has had long pre-Incan settlement with an archeological record of more than 6,000 years. The Incan intrusion began in the 14th century. Spanish settlement was established in 1539.

Libraries for the education of clerics were founded beginning in the mid-17th century. Subsequent acquisition programs have continued to build the collections, bringing together printed books imported to Peru as well as those printed in Peru over a period of five centuries. The genres collected include civil and canon law, theology, ecclesiastic history, philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. The church libraries also have served as repositories for magazines, newspapers, and regional imprints of various kinds.

The project team that worked to preserve these historical libraries includes Chela Metzger from the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Cultural Record at the University of Texas at Austin, Anna Embree from the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama, and Frost, who serves as project director.

While in Arequipa, they demonstrated nondamaging exhibit installation, and showed methods for preservation of historical libraries and cleaning and stabilization of book collections. The team also salvaged collections from earthquake damage.

Frost was joined in his work at the Cedar Rapids museums by Nancy E. Kraft, head of preservation at UI Libraries.

by George McCrory

Office of University Relations. Copyright The University of Iowa 2006. All rights reserved.