About Preservation Programs
The Preservation Programs Division at the National Archives uses preservation strategies to make sure that records and information are preserved. Our Preservation Strategy outlines how we support sustainable access to NARA’s holdings for current and future users through preservation, conservation, and research programs.
Preservation Programs is a source for preservation information on how to care for, store, preserve and use textual, non-textual and artifact holdings.
National Preservation Programs manages nationwide preventive conservation for Field Archives, Federal Records Centers, and Presidential Libraries and Museums.
Conservation Branch treats paper-based and photographic records, supports digitization projects and exhibitions, produces custom housings, and consults on the storage, handling and care of NARA records.
Moving Image and Sound Preservation Branch preserves and digitizes special media and supports NARA research rooms at College Park.
St. Louis Preservation Branch treats and digitizes military and civilian records at the National Personnel Records Center, preserves microfilm records, and supports digitization projects at NARA Archives nationwide.
Heritage Science Research and Testing Branch conducts research on material aging, environment conditions, and treatment options and specifies and tests storage and exhibit materials.
The National Preservation Programs office manages the national preservation program and supports headquarters staff at the National Archives at College Park as well as conservators, technicians and other preservation specialists. Our staff:
- Develop preservation strategies and policy.
- Provide guidance across NARA.
- Participate in the wider preservation community.
- Assist staff at the Field Archives, Federal Records Centers, and the Presidential Libraries and Museums in monitoring environmental conditions in holdings areas.
- Oversee records emergency planning, mitigation, and response and review annually updated Records Emergency Plans for each of our facilities.
The National Preservation Program Officers for Field Archives, Federal Records Centers, Affiliated Archives, and Presidential Libraries and Museums:
- Assist staff in implementing a wide range of preservation strategies.
- Consult on facility and environmental management.
- Advise on assessment, treatment and care of holdings.
The Conservation Branch laboratories in College Park, MD and Washington, DC facilitate access to NARA records by performing a wide range of treatments on paper, parchment, and a variety of photographic materials. Our conservators and technicians:
- Support MD/DC based NARA digitization projects, research rooms, and exhibitions including the regular condition monitoring of the Founding Documents and the Magna Carta.
- Schedule Conservation Laboratory work on a two-year planning cycle that focuses on overall agency priorities and the records of highest significance that are most in need of treatment or custom housing.
- Serve as Conservation Liaisons for treatment to archival units across NARA.
- Consult on the storage, handling and care of NARA records.
- Produce custom housings, typically using box making machines, for all NARA archival units for oversized, three-dimensional or unique holdings.
- Provide a variety of holdings maintenance supplies and training to staff.
- Complete mold remediation treatments at the National Archives at College Park.
The Moving Image and Sound Preservation Branch provides agency-wide laboratory services and technical expertise on the preservation and reformatting of audio, video, and motion picture film records. Our staff:
- Support archival access, review, description and preservation of special media across NARA.
- Provide guidance on the appropriate reformatting approaches.
- Contribute to preservation policy development and its implementation.
- Collaborate with other agencies, institutions, and standards/best practices groups to advance preservation and access for audio and moving image content.
The Audio-Video Preservation Laboratory provides digital products of NARA’s audio and video holdings and the needed services and expertise to assist NARA staff and other stakeholders in dealing with a wide range of audio and video holdings at the technical level. Our staff:
- Support analog-to-digital reformatting workflows for both preservation and distribution purposes.
- Work with selected born-digital audio and video material in accessioned NARA collections.
- Use analog-to-analog and analog-to-digital reformatting workflows for both preservation and distribution purposes to reproduce a wide variety of film elements and files.
- Serve as subject matter experts in identifying film element types, evaluating the physical condition of accessioned records, and digital conversion issues specific to film-based media.
- Determine the retention of elements for individual titles, and select appropriate preservation actions, including reformatting, in a collaborative process between preservation staff and the archival staff.
The St. Louis Preservation Branch preserves holdings stored at the National Archives at St. Louis and records at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). NARA’s Preservation Strategy plans to scale up St. Louis’s preservation services to support NARA’s Field Archives with conservation and digitization services. This part of the strategy has not been implemented to date.
The Paper Lab was established in 1999 to treat the 6.5 million records saved from the 1973 fire at the NPRC. Treatment responsibilities expanded after 2004 when the National Archives at St. Louis opened and many of the Military and Civilian Personnel records became permanent NARA holdings. Paper Lab staff:
- Treat records of high significance or those that are needed for use.
- Provide training and guidance to internal staff members, contractors, and to federal agencies who consistently use NPRC holdings.
- Support environmental monitoring, pest management, and Records Emergency Response for the NPRC facility and as backup for RX in the NARA COOP plan.
When the St. Louis Preservation Laboratory started in the late 1990s, microfilm was the primary reformatting medium for archival records. Today, NARA uses digital technology for reformatting. Reformatting Lab staff:
- Digitize archival records to reduce handling and make them more accessible to all users. Digitizing burned records also provides faster access to these damaged records.
- Digitize and perform contrast enhancement on badly burned records to reveal and recover content otherwise thought lost.
- Work with both the National Archives at St. Louis and the NPRC to digitize collections that will aid them in answering Veteran’s requests.
The Heritage Science Research and Testing Branch conducts an interdisciplinary program of applied research to use scientific evidence to support sustainable preservation decision making. Our priorities are described in our Heritage Science Research Strategy. Our scientists:
- Use scientific instrumentation and methodologies and computational and statistical modeling to assess material aging and preservation risks to NARA’s holdings, and the potential mitigation strategies to address these risks.
- Determine the environmental conditions that support long-term preservation of NARA holdings.
- Research energy efficient and sustainable ways to optimize preservation environments.
- Establish specifications for holdings maintenance supplies and provide material testing across NARA to ensure materials in close contact with holdings, such as storage materials, exhibit case components, and cleaning solutions used in archival areas, support long-term preservation.
- Respond to requests for scientific investigation and testing, determining the best approaches and techniques to answer questions, collect and analyze data and provide conclusions.
- Serve as a hub of scientific expertise and share the research results.
- Contribute to NARA policy and serve on national and international standardizing bodies.
- Engage actively with the wider heritage science community and work with agency, academic and industry partners to find solutions to the preservation challenges of today’s archives.
Questions about preservation? Please email us at email@example.com