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University of Iowa News Release


July 14, 2007

University conservator helps save libraries in Peru

University of Iowa Libraries Conservator Gary Frost is in Peru this month helping conserve antiquarian libraries in the former Spanish colonial city of Arequipa.

Last November, Frost visited Arequipa, Peru, at former UI Librarian Helen Ryan's invitation to assist in preservation assessment of the historical libraries in the area. Frost returned to Arequipa July 7 for a two-week trip to provide further assistance along with colleagues from two other universities. Frost and his team are assessing preservation risks and advising local librarians on how to protect exhibits, as well as giving advice on storage and conservation. They are also saving a collection from a condemned, earthquake-damaged library.

The team's progress can be tracked on Frost's blog at

Arequipa is in the southern region of Peru near the border with Chile. With a population of one million, it is the second largest city. The city is 40 miles from the coast and surrounded by volcanoes and expansive canyon lands. The region has had long pre-Incan settlement with an archeological record of more than 6,000 years. The Incan intrusion began in the 14th century. Spanish settlement was established in 1539.

Libraries for the education of clerics were founded beginning in the mid 17th century. Subsequent acquisition programs have continued to build the collections, bringing together printed books imported to Peru as well as those printed in Peru over a period of five centuries. The genres collected include civil and cannon law, theology, ecclesiastic history, philosophy, sociology and linguistics. The church libraries also have served as repositories for magazines, newspapers and regional imprints of various kinds.

The project team working to preserve these historical libraries includes Chela Metzger from the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Cultural Record at the University of Texas at Austin, Anna Embree from the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama, and the UI's Frost, who serves as project director. While in Arequipa, they will demonstrate nondamaging exhibit installation, as well as show methods for preservation of historical libraries and cleaning and stabilization of book collections. The team will also salvage collections from earthquake damage.

Before leaving for Peru, Frost and Nancy E. Kraft, head of preservation at the UI Libraries, did flood damage assessment and preservation work at the Czech National Museum and Library and African-American Museum in Cedar Rapids.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Kristi Bontrager, University of Iowa Libraries,, 319-335-5960; George McCrory, University of Iowa News Services, 319-384-0012,