Cleaning the RUSI Library of Military History is an enormous task but one that is necessary for the long term preservation of the collection. In August, the Library will be closed to undergo this much needed preparation work.
The RUSI Library of Military History has not been systematically cleaned for a considerable number of years. Whilst dust is an annoyance and can aesthetically damage a collection, it can also physically damage a collection and be a risk to health.
Dust harbours a number of damaging properties, it can cause deterioration of paper, attract dangerous pests which can eat paper and bindings, it can permanently make pages and bindings dirty and most importantly it can conceal mould spores. If mould spores are left, in the event of a flood or any dampness in the collection (including that caused by a rise in humidity), an outbreak of mould can occur which can destroy books with impressive speed. Not only is mould potentially damaging to the collection but it is also a hazardous substance and keeping the collection clean is imperative to the health and safety of the staff and members of the library. Cleaning the collection cannot rid it entirely of mould spores as they live in the air, however it can go a long way to reducing the risks associated.
Whilst recataloguing the collection we have found a considerable number of rare and valuable books, some of which have been damaged by dust, pests and outbreaks of mould over the years. Finding these items, serves to highlight the importance of this long term preservation work. By limiting the risks of damage, removing dust, mould spores and cleaning our books we will be preserving the collection in the longer term.
As a result of the necessity of this work we have taken the big decision to close the Library during August.