The Mystery of the Franklin Archive Bookcase

posted Dec 23, 2011, 8:14 AM by jj pionke
In one of my classes on preservation of information, we were required to do a preservation assessment survey of a local archive.  My group chose the Franklin Archive at the Temple Beth-El in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  My group did the survey and then in a follow up course, we also put together a project plan that addressed some of the needs that we discovered in the survey.  The project plan that I wrote revolved around this gorgeous old turn of the century bookcase filled with books of varying ages and languages.  The archivist wasn't sure what was in the case because many of the books are in languages that she doesn't read or write in.  My project plan aimed to look through the books, do a preservation/conservation assessment, and take photographs of the title pages of books that weren't in English so that at least the titles could be translated. 
I followed through with my plan for three days right after I was mostly done with finals and before I headed home for the holidays.  It was a wonderful experience.  The books were fascinating.  The oldest book dated to the 1700s, while the newest one was from the last decade or so.  The archivist had me do assessments on anything pre-1900 books and many of them are in pretty bad shape.  I hope to take a physical treatments seminar next Fall and if so, I am hoping that the archivist will let me repair some of the more repairable books. 
Currently, I am aggregating the pictures into a powerpoint document so that they are easy to see.  The archivist will then be able to hopefully solicit assistance from the congregation of the Temple to help her translate what the titles are.
I had a lot of fun with this project and I want to continue to work on it as I can.  I fulfilled the project plan, though I would like to take the project further with book repair, valuation if possible, translation of titles, etc.  I don't know how much time I will have to work on this next semester or even that the archivist will want me to continue to work on it, but I fully intend to ask.  I am so glad that I did this project!