SCMRE Paper Conservation Laboratory &
Preservation Resource Center

MISSION: Education and Training for the Preservation of Documents in Research, Libraries, and Archives Collections. When James Smithson willed his fortune to the United States Government to establish an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge, little did he realize that the Smithsonian Institution would eventually grow to house one of the largest collections of documents supporting research in the world. Over 200 million documents are scattered throughout dozens of museums and archives.


The purpose of the Paper Preservation Program is to establish training in the following core elements identified by the Society of American Archivists:

  1. Preservation Management
  2. Environmental Control
  3. Duplication
  4. Collections Maintenance
  5. Conservation Treatment (SCMRE's Research in treatment development)
  6. Research (SCMRE's Research into history and technologies)
  7. Preservation Training

The audience for the program includes museum staff, conservation students, and others interested in the preservation of the inherent value of records documenting our natural and cultural heritage.

The methods of training include lectures, workshops, courses, internships, and outreach in media including publications, exhibitions, and video.

For information on Preventive Care Course Material...


SCMRE cosponsors, with the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Research, Libraries, and Archives Collections Conservation Task Force (RELACT). Over the last several years, SCMRE has developed guidelines and trained staff to assess collections on the basis of value, risk and use in order to target funding through Research Resources grants for rehousing, duplication and treatment. We've undertaken 32 preservation priority surveys pan-institutionally comparing SI collections. RELACT has been awarded over $70,000 in "Ounce of Prevention" grants from Research Resources and $45,000 for a preventive care symposium, plus $30,000 donations in supplies, equipment and furniture. The collections that have been helped include:

  • Memorabilia of Smithson himself, stored in acidic containers until the advent of the sesquicentennial afforded the opportunity for a SCMRE intern to train staff in rehousing.
  • Posters and technical illustrations from the Air & Space Museum, ranging from examples stained from cleaning fluids while on exhibition, to others rolled in storage and unable to be accessed until humidified and flattened.
  • Architectural drawings of temples, important to archaeologists but possibly no longer extant because of middle eastern wars, restoraged to prevent further distortions of scale and loss of information.
  • American Indian Art, of interest to artists, historians and anthropologists, protected from discoloration caused by acidic storage cabinets and materials through rematting, by SCMRE interns and volunteers.
  • Natural History type illustrations, like botanical studies of interest to medical researchers and environmentalists, rehoused to protect them from poor storage, display, and attack by vermin; the fish type specimen file, random sampled to ascertain the storage needs for 20,000 items; and the dinosaur file, of interest to scholars and school kids alike, desperately in need of new storage cabinets, such as those depicted below, to provide a more controlled environment.