Science  05 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5847, pp. 27a
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5847.27a

GEMS FROM THE PAST. Working with artifacts including Egyptian mummies and Australian Aboriginal bark paintings, conservation scientist Eric Hansen spent 20 years at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, California, figuring out ways to preserve rare objects. Now Hansen has taken over preservation research at another treasure vault: the U.S. Library of Congress, the largest library in the world.

Hansen, a chemist and archaeologist, says one major project will be to conserve magnetic tapes that are degrading. “You lose all information because you can't run it through a machine,” he says. Bolstered by a planned doubling of the Ph.D. research staff to six, Hansen will also be trying to pin down the shelf life of CDs, DVDs, and recycled paper and find ways to strengthen millions of books weakened by age. “The challenge here is the sheer amount in the collections,” he says.

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