Monday, January 26, 2015

Finding Aids for Historical Bibles

The Darling Library has two Bibles that were printed in the mid-16th century and one that was printed in 1629. As you can imagine, they are not in mint condition. They are fragile and should not be handled unnecessarily in order to preserve what is left of them for years to come.

Even environmental factors such as light, temperature, and humidity can have a detrimental effect on leather binding and paper over time. And we dare not flip the pages like we would a popular novel! These Bibles are on display in a locked glass cabinet for preservation. Although this keeps them from “unnecessary roughness,” it does not protect them against the environmentally destructive elements.

But storing them in a hermetically sealed vault out of sight would not serve the information and research needs of our academic community. The library values research as well as preservation. We want to provide researchers access to as much information as possible. The content and the context of these primary sources can provide clues of potentially historical significance.

Therefore, we have embarked on the process of creating a finding aid. An archival finding aid usually includes a physical description of the artifacts, information about the publication history, and the provenance of the specific item in hand. It requires careful handling, a keen eye, and, particularly in the case of those with missing or partial pages, some clever investigative research.

We assigned two Master of Library and Information Science interns from San Jose State University’s School of Information to the task. Look for the result of their labor in future posts.

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