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A couple of weeks ago the MDCH Program transported a collection of maps from the Talbot County Free Library (TCFL) in Easton, Maryland, to the EPFL Central Library in Baltimore, Maryland. The maps date from 1631 to 1836 and most of them are beautifully colored and oversized. Too large to fit on a traditional scanner the MDCH Program agreed to digitize the maps using our Cambo 35 mm camera with digital scan back. Over the next few weeks we will create high resolution images of the maps before shipping them back to TCFL. After they've shipped back to their home institution we will ingest the images into our CONTENTdm database, add descriptive metadata, and host both the images and the metadata on the MDCH website. These maps will make a great addition to the MDCH collections and will complement nicely the Mapping Maryland's Counties collection from EPFL that is already online.
The transportation of these maps represent the MDCH Program's first successful implementation of procedures for the secure transport of materials on loan for digitization. These procedures are similar to those employed by museums for traveling exhibits. The procedures include obtaining insurance coverage, drawing up loan agreements, making plans for the appropriate transportation of materials, employing basic guidelines for the proper handling of the materials during digitization, and secure storage.
Any library that regularly hosts traveling exhibits from other institutions has probably secured a certificate of insurance to cover the exhibit during the period of the loan. This kind of insurance coverage may be referred to as coverage for museum collections and temporary loans. Typically, a request for a certificate of insurance should include an inventory of the items to be loaned, the estimated value of the items; the name, address, and contact information of the individual at the lending institution that is in charge of the collection, and the time period of the loan. Once this information has been received the insurance company will issue a certificate of insurance to cover the materials in the unlikely event that anything should happen to them from the time the materials leave their home institution to the time that they return. If you're transporting materials to your institution for digitization find out if your library has the right kind of insurance to cover the materials during the period of the loan. You should check with your insurance provider to find out the details of the coverage, including whether or not the company requires the use of a particular transport service (such as Artex or FedEx Custom Critical) and whether or not the value of the items must be provided by a certified appraiser.
In the museum, archival, or special libraries profession, loan agreements are contracts between the lending and borrowing institution to document a loan transaction. This document is usually drafted by the lending institution and will include an inventory of the items being loaned, a brief report on the condition of the materials, contact information for the lender/borrower, and information about when the items were returned. Additionally, the loan agreement may dictate which services the borrowing institution can use to transport the materials or how the materials may be stored during the loan. If the lending institution does not have a formalized loan policy in place, and they are willing to loan their materials, then it would benefit all parties for the borrowing institution to draft a loan agreement.
In some cases the lending institution's loan agreement will dictate which transport service may be used. Some common services include Artex Fine Art Services, Fine Arts Express, Crozier Fine Arts, and FedEx's Custom Critical service. These types of transport companies specialize in the transport of rare, priceless art and artifacts and are well versed in the appropriate handling of these items during short or long distance transport. In the case of the maps transported from Talbot County we used FedEx's Custom Critical Surface Expedite service. This allowed us to take advantage of their same day, door-to-door delivery of the maps using a dedicated vehicle. The vehicle was monitored via satellite and I received updates on the progress of the vehicle in my e-mail inbox. The maps were packed in a box using packing guidelines employed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center.
Proper handling of rare materials
Special care should be taken to ensure that rare and/or fragile materials are handled during the digitization process in such a way that they are not damaged. Exposure to light and heat and drastic changes in temperature and humidity contribute to the deterioration of special collections materials. Other precautions to take when digitizing materials include the following:
When the materials are not being digitized they should be covered and stored in a secure area, such as a locked room with limited access or in a safe or vault. Ideally, the secure area should be one where there is control over the temperature and relative humidity. At the very least the secure area should be climate controlled.
Following these procedures will help to ensure that the materials are returned to their parent institution in the same condition in which they left.