Preservation and Access to Collections
Improved Preservation and Access to Collections Are
Keys to Serving Scholarly Community
With 75,000 prints, 218 amateur albums, and 1,732 vintage negatives depicting
aspects of human sexuality and gender, The Kinsey Institute's photography
collection is the largest holding of its kind in the world, and the
institute's archives include important
unpublished correspondence and other materials dating from the 1940s.
These collections are a rich and unparalleled resource for scholars in
a variety of fields. Until recently, however, they have been inadequately
"They've been deteriorating over the last 50 years, and we need to prevent
further deterioration before any additional damage occurs," says institute
curator, Jennifer Pearson Yamashiro.
With funding from Indiana University's Strategic Directions Charter and
the University Graduate School, that's just what the institute is doing.
The primary focus of the preservation project is the stabilization of
humidity and temperature in the storage areas for the photographs and
archives. "Any fluctuations in temperature and humidity can be extremely
damaging to works on paper, potentially causing paper to crack and crumble,
dyes to fade, or mold to flourish, depending on conditions," Yamashiro
Unfortunately, the beautiful limestone buildings for which the IU Bloomington
campus is known are part of the problem. "Our greatest challenge is that
limestone lacks insulation, and moisture seeps in," Yamahisro says. To
counteract this, the photograph and archival records storage areas and
the institute's display gallery are being insulated and fitted with vapor
retarder systems. Renovation of the photography storage spaces will be
complete by May 1998.
Establishing environmental control and rehousing the collections are
essential not only to the longevity of the materials in those collections,
but also to the institute's ability to win grant money for future initiatives.
Foremost among these is making the collections more accessible to the
scholarly community. "What we're doing now is the first step," Yamashiro
says. "Once things are housed properly, then we can go on to improve access."
Because information about the collections is not stored in a database,
searching for items of a specific type is often slow and difficult.
With preservation work under way, the institute was able to apply for
funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to improve
access to four key photography collections. "I targeted four areas that
are currently heavily used or would be in great demand if they were organized,"
Yamashiro says. These areas are the Documentary, George Platt Lynes, Amateur
Albums, and Wilhelm von Gloden Collections, which together include well
over 50,000 images.
The institute is requesting NEH funds to catalog and process these collections
using nationally accepted standards and to build a database that will
have finding aids with brief, item-level entries. In addition, information
about these collections will be available through a national bibliographic
The Kinsey Institute will find out in April if it received the two-year
NEH grant, which would provide funding beginning in May of 1998. Yamashiro
is optimistic. "I think our chances of getting the grant are excellent,"
she says. "But most important, we're well on our way to stabilizing the
photographic and archival collections. That gives us time to work toward
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