a row of books in various sizes and colors placed on a library shelf

Moving, By the Book

By Gillian Hayward, on

Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience has been on our minds and in our plans for a long time … and for good reason, as it’s the largest expansion, reimagination, and preservation of our Conservatory and surrounding landscape in Longwood’s modern history. Given its multi-faceted scope, Longwood Reimagined most certainly involves a multitude of details and precise planning. Whether we’re transplanting our plant collections or moving our precious, one-of-kind library and archives (right down to our oldest book, dated 1635), we must practice a high level of care along the way … and a story in itself can be found in each and every move related to the project. One such endeavor was the process in which we safely packed, tracked, and moved our extensive library and archives collection—which includes an almost 20,000 books, among many other items—to off-site storage for safekeeping during the Longwood Reimagined project. The fact that we found a few hidden gems along the way was just one of the highlights of this multi-step, filled-with-care process.

Longwood Reimagined includes the addition of a new Administration Building (to be built on the footprint of the former home of the Library and Archives), which will feature a stunning new library for our staff, students, and volunteers, as well as state-of-the-art archives for our large collections. By the time we shared our Longwood Reimagined plans in February 2021, the staff of the Longwood Gardens Library and Information Services (LIS) division were already hard at work preparing our precious collections—including institutional records, plant records, photographic documentation of our long history, rare books that belonged to our founder Pierre S. du Pont, and newer books that support the work of our staff and students—for their temporary move.    

Moving our library and archives collections was no simple feat, but one well worth it to safely house our beloved items until they make their way to their new, cutting-edge library home in fall 2024. To move our almost 20,000 books to off-site storage, each and every book’s barcode was scanned to track its location before being loaded onto heavy-duty book carts, then protectively wrapped for the journey to off-site storage. This process led us to discover a book that Longwood had borrowed through inter-library loan from the University of Chicago library in 2012! It was duly returned to its home library, giving librarians on both ends a good story to tell.

Sir Peter Shepheard's original 1977 concept drawing for the eastern terminus of the Flower Garden Walk and our oldest book (dated 1635) were just two of the thousands of library and archives items sent to off-site storage for safekeeping during the Longwood Reimagined project.

Here at Longwood, the LIS division encompasses the library, archives, plant records, digital image library, and docent teams, together helping to tell the story of Longwood’s rich history and committed to sharing and protecting our resources for years to come. The whole LIS team pitched in to complete a large variety of complex tasks in preparation for the move.

Plant Collections Information Manager Kristina Aguilar assisted the Horticulture department in updating inventories of plant collections affected by the upcoming construction. Hundreds of plants, both under glass and in our outdoor landscapes, were moved to new locations, shared with other gardens, or deaccessioned based upon rarity and priority within the collection. The records for those plants needed to be updated and removed from the active plant collection inventory and map. Photo by Maureen McCadden.
Archives Manager Judy Stevenson created a spreadsheet inventory of every box or other container, such as a flat file drawer or tube of drawings, in the archives.  The spreadsheet became our master inventory of all archives materials that were moving, and thus had to be accurate and complete. Containers of all 2,280 items moving offsite were barcoded and scanned into the spreadsheet, and included 1,944 boxes of documents, audio-visual material, organ rolls, and published works; 50 flat file drawers of display design plans, maps, and posters; 202 oversized plan file folders of architectural drawing; 82 tubes of rolled drawings and maps; and 2 giant-size carpets for the ballroom. Photo by David Sleasman.
Digital Resource Manager Maureen McCadden inventoried and re-housed Longwood’s archival collection of tens of thousands of slides, transparencies, and photographs … totaling approximately 220 linear feet. Photo by Maureen McCadden.
We discovered some hidden image gems along the way from two undated,  anonymous scrapbooks of early Longwood images that will have some mysteries to solve; and images of a topiary peacock display from the 1990s (as shown above) that we had not before seen captured in photos. This deep look at the collection also allowed us to prioritize various materials for scanning, which will make them available digitally to our library users. Photo by Larry Albee.
Another hidden image gem discovered was a 2007 photo of the Silver Garden roof with panes removed to make room for a very tall plant bloom. Photo by Bud Spitzer.

Over the past several years, Director of Library and Information Services David Sleasman has surveyed our collections to identify items in need of conservation. Some of those materials, including many of our rare books, have been conserved by the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) of Philadelphia. In preparation for the upcoming move, he thought it was a good time to add some extra protection to one of our most beautiful book collections.

A portion of our rare books and special collections sit in the climate-controlled, secure vault prior to the move. Photo by Hank Davis.

Our rare folio collection consists of approximately 150 large-format, lushly illustrated volumes, most of which belonged to our founder. We asked CCAHA’s Senior Book Conservator Richard Homer to measure and house our rare folio collection in custom made, snug-fitting archival boxes, which would not only protect them during the move and storage but keep them protected for many years to come.

CCAHA Senior Book Conservator Richard Homer measures a rare folio for custom boxing. He also conducted an online seminar for LIS staff, which outlined best practices when preparing our collections for the move. Photo by Maureen McCadden.
CCAHA measured and custom-boxed larger format folios for us. Photo by Hank Davis.
As library manager, I coordinated a photographic inventory of all rare books, both for insurance purposes and to document their condition prior to storage. I then wrapped and boxed some of the very small size rare and special collection books in acid-free paper and boxes for storage, following guidance from CCAHA. Photo by Hank Davis.

When the time came for our collections to be moved off-site, we were ready! Over a two-week period, professional movers Bayshore Moving & Storage carefully and thoughtfully transported our one-of-a-kind collections to a high-tech, environmentally controlled, secure storage space until we are ready for their return.

A portion of our collections start to make their way off-site. Photo by David Sleasman.

As for what of our collection will remain here at Longwood during the Longwood Reimagined project, we’ve kept only a small, often-referenced library collection onsite in our temporary offices. If we need to retrieve an item, however, we can access our library and archives materials from storage as needed throughout the project. We will also rely heavily on our 7,000+ title eBook collection, which is available to Longwood Members.

Artist’s rendering of the new library space to be constructed as part of Longwood Reimagined.

Until the day our collections return to their new Longwood home, we will know exactly how and where each and every item is stored … and we will take pride in the steps we took to ensure that our collections safely return to their new Longwood home.

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