Research

Research

IPI’s mission is achieved by maintaining an active preservation research program that informs and advances professional-level education and training activities, publications, consulting services, and the development of practical preservation resources and tools.

IPI’s original research focus was the preservation of photographs, microfilm, and motion pictures and it remains a world leader in preservation resources for photographic collections. Over the last two decades, IPI research has also focused on sustainable preservation environmental management. Today, IPI’s research program is well known internationally for translating laboratory research into resources that can be used by collection stewards to make well-informed decisions that enhance the long-term preservation of collections. IPI’s primary audience is collections staff, including librarians, archivists, conservators, collections managers, and other allied professionals responsible for preserving cultural heritage collections.

Areas of Research & Expertise

Recent Initiatives

Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for the Creation, Collection, and Consumption of 3D Printed Objects in Museums

Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for the Creation, Collection, and Consumption of 3D Printed Objects in Museums

Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for the Creation, Collection, and Consumption of 3D Printed Objects in Museums

Museums are experiencing an increased presence of 3D printed objects in collections and higher instances of use in preservation activities. The diversity of 3D printed materials presents a major challenge to collections stewardship given that few studies have investigated the preservation of 3D printed objects, let alone identified the extent of material variety found within museums. This project will consist of 1) a national survey to identify critical preservation challenges associated with 3D printed materials and technologies found in museums, 2) interviews with 3D printing industry leaders to inform a web-based resource that will support preservation of 3D printed objects in museums, and 3) the creation of a 3D printed study collection to support continued research and educational opportunities. These resources will provide a platform for the development of preservation guidelines and will be made available for free from the IPI website, immediately benefiting the global community of museum professionals responsible for preserving objects created by these emerging technologies.

Funded by:
Institute of Museum and Library Services

Award:
$375,543

Project Dates:
2021 - 2024

Principal Investigator:
Meredith Noyes, PhD

Integrating Risk Assessment for Pollutants into Energy-saving Strategies for Sustainable Environmental Management of Collection Storage Spaces

Integrating Risk Assessment for Pollutants into Energy-saving Strategies for Sustainable Environmental Management of Collection Storage Spaces

Integrating Risk Assessment for Pollutants into Energy-saving Strategies for Sustainable Environmental Management of Collection Storage Spaces

Energy-saving strategies for mechanical system operations such as temporary system shutdowns, fan speed adjustments, and outside air reduction are proven effective ways to maintain or improve the preservation quality of a collection environment while reducing the financial burden and carbon footprint of a collecting institution. However, current criteria guiding safe implementation of energy-saving strategies focus on temperature and relative humidity alone, which ignores the significant risk to collections posed by outdoor and indoor-generated pollutants. This project will address that problem by developing a methodology for monitoring room-level pollutant concentrations while implementing these energy-saving strategies and then analyzing that data to quantify and respond to risks.

Funded by:
National Endowment for the Humanities

Award:
$350,000

Project Dates:
2021 - 2024

Principal Investigator:
Kelly McCauley Krish

Cost-Efficient and Environmentally Responsible Preservation Methods for Preparing Paper-Based Objects for Transit and Display

Cost-Efficient and Environmentally Responsible Preservation Methods for Preparing Paper-Based Objects for Transit and Display

Cost-Efficient and Environmentally Responsible Preservation Methods for Preparing Paper-Based Objects for Transit and Display

This three-year research project will explore the most cost-efficient and environmentally responsible methods of preparing paper-based collection objects for transit and display while also maintaining preservation standards. The project will include both field and laboratory research. The project team will collect environmental data from multiple museums’ shipping crates simultaneously. Laboratory experimentation will include testing the safety and relative humidity buffering capacity of crate packing materials and methods, and varied microenvironment-sealed frame package designs used to protect objects during transit and display. Guidelines from this project will be useful to all museums with exhibition and loan programs and have the potential to reduce the cost and material waste associated with thousands of museum objects prepared annually for transit and display.

Funded by:
Institute of Museum and Library Services

Award:
$429,409

Project Dates:
2020 - 2023

Principal Investigator:
Al Carver-Kubik

Assessment Initiatives for Institutional Planning at the Image Permanence Institute

Assessment Initiatives for Institutional Planning at the Image Permanence Institute

Assessment Initiatives for Institutional Planning at the Image Permanence Institute

A preservation research needs assessment that includes online surveys and in-person working meetings to engage and solicit feedback from collections staff, preservation researchers, and conservation educators will identify research priorities recognized in the field and inform research program planning. A financial assessment, in collaboration with nonprofit management consultants, that evaluates current and potential financial scenarios at IPI will inform strategic planning and growth that best balances mission-driven activities and financial resources. The knowledge and skills gained through all the proposed assessment activities will strengthen existing staff skills and inform future assessments and planning processes beyond the project period.

Funded by:
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Award:
$165,000

Project Dates:
2019 - 2020

Principal Investigator:
Jennifer Jae Gutierrez

Evaluating the Potential for Freezing and Freeze Drying to Improve Water Emergency Outcomes for Inkjet Prints

Evaluating the Potential for Freezing and Freeze Drying to Improve Water Emergency Outcomes for Inkjet Prints

Evaluating the Potential for Freezing and Freeze Drying to Improve Water Emergency Outcomes for Inkjet Prints

This project will build on previous work to finalize salvage techniques for inkjet-printed collection materials following water emergencies. Experiments will compare the full history of inkjet print types across freezing rates and drying methodologies. The data will form the basis of best practices needed to effectively respond to water emergencies large or small. Results will be submitted to conferences and journals, made available on IPI’s existing Digital Print Preservation Portal website, and integrated into ongoing education initiatives. Results will also be condensed into a printed, waterproof, one-page visual aid to provide simplified guidance during these catastrophic events. The project will benefit museums, libraries, archives, galleries, photographers, and the general public; maximize our nation’s collective ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover inkjet-printed materials during water emergencies; and address the IMLS Strategic Plan Goal for Collections Stewardship.

Funded by:
Institute of Museum and Library Services

Award:
$453,054

Project Dates:
2018 - 2021

Principal Investigator:
Daniel Burge

The Impact of Temperature Transitions, Short-term and Seasonal, on the Moisture Content of Library and Archive Collections

The Impact of Temperature Transitions, Short-term and Seasonal, on the Moisture Content of Library and Archive Collections

The Impact of Temperature Transitions, Short-term and Seasonal, on the Moisture Content of Library and Archive Collections

The potential for deterioration caused by moisture content exists in storage and access scenarios. This research will strengthen our understanding of the complex interactions between hygroscopic collection materials and their environment in response to temperature changes. Data collected has the potential to 1) determine the storage density necessary to effectively have hygroscopic materials control their moisture content, 2) provide a roadmap for controlling moisture content during periods of dryness and dampness, and 3) create a guide for temperature and relative humidity ranges that avoid mechanical damage during access and use. The results of this project have the potential to inform new sustainable preservation and access strategies for both large and small humanities research collections.

Funded by:
National Endowment for the Humanities

Award:
$349,149

Project Dates:
2018 - 2020

Principal Investigator:
Jean-Louis Bigourdan

Digital Image Correlation to Determine Shape Deformation of Paper Based Collections Due to Relative Humidity and Temperature Variations

Digital Image Correlation to Determine Shape Deformation of Paper Based Collections Due to Relative Humidity and Temperature Variations

Digital Image Correlation to Determine Shape Deformation of Paper Based Collections Due to Relative Humidity and Temperature Variations

One of the most frequent questions asked by rare book curators and librarians is: “At what RH, especially with respect to dry conditions, does a serious risk of irreversible mechanical stress occur?” Mechanical (physical) damage due to dryness or excessive dampness is the principal reason why special collection materials require controlled environmental conditions. For many years, recommendations have emphasized close control around a target of 45-55% RH. What is not well established from actual experimentation, however, are the practical limits where irreversible damage takes place. This area of research—safe limits for RH—has received considerable attention in the fine and decorative arts, but not for the complex and diverse mechanical structures of bound volumes. To overcome the difficulty of studying mechanical behavior of complex book structures IPI will employ a new technology, Digital Image Correlation (DIC) to dynamically assess expansion and contraction of composite objects.

Funded by:
National Endowment for the Humanities

Award:
$399,825

Project Dates:
2015 - 2019

Principal Investigator:
Al Carver-Kubik