Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Introduction

Conservators examining a globe. Click to enlarge.

Olivia Primanis and Mary Baughman closely examine the
1541 Mercator Globe and readhere loose areas of the map in
preparation for its exhibition in "Images of the World Maps,
Globes, and Atlases."

The Conservation Department of the Harry Ransom Center is charged with the care of the Center's collections. This responsibility poses ongoing and rewarding challenges in the areas of treatment, preventive care, research and education.

Treatment of the Center's diverse holdings requires an in-depth understanding of many types of material, a broad range of technical skills, and occasionally the development of unique procedures and structures. Although each conservator and technician is skilled in a particular specialty such as book, paper or photograph conservation, box making, or exhibit preparation, all are equally engaged with preservation, exhibition and access for the full range of objects in the collections.

The Conservation Department supports the training and education of future conservators by encouraging students from The University of Texas School of Information to work on projects for the Center. Interns from other American and international conservation training programs are welcome in the Conservation Labs. Since it was established in 1980, the department has served as host to interns from Europe, England, Canada, Latin America and the United States. The department supports the professional interaction and growth of its staff in order that it may provide better service, stimulate greater preservation awareness and foster educational opportunities at the Ransom Center and within the community at large.

Though the department is primarily responsible for the care and preservation of the Ransom Center's extraordinary collections, it has on occasion provided conservation services to other state and federal agencies. Among the more notable documents which staff of the department have conserved are the Texas Declaration of Independence and the "Victory or Death" letter sent by Colonel William B. Travis from the Alamo the day before it was captured by Santa Anna. Also a 1297 Inspectumus of the Magna Carta was flattened and repaired and a climatized exhibit case was prepared for the exhibition of this document at sites across the United States. Most recently the department assisted the State of Oklahoma with the conservation and exhibition of their State Constitution.