Wet Plate Collodion Process

Traveling into the distant future, the time traveler came across a collection of deteriorating books that crumbled to the touch of his hand. At that point, he grew disgusted of the future hominids that occupied the planet, their lack of curiosity and knowledge allowed for the care and handling of those books. This scene from the 1960 film, The Time Machine, adapted from H.G. Wells’ novella, shows a world evolved to the point where misunderstandings of the significance of acquiring knowledge have left the hominids enslaved to their primitive state.

It was only until the 1930’s that it was discovered that paper made directly from wood pulp contained acidic compounds that deteriorated paper. Librarian William Barrow figured a way to neutralize pulp-based paper, which is the common type of paper many of us like today. This awareness of the vulnerability of the material we record information on has spurred the study of preservation and conservation and the continued investment in keeping more and more works for the purpose of containing and acquiring knowledge.