James Reilly receives Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award

For Immediate Release
Mon, 02/24/2014


Charles Wilt

Executive Director



CHICAGO James M. Reilly, director of the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), is the recipient of the 2014 Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award, given annually by the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS).  The award sponsored by Preservation Technologies, L.P. includes a citation and $1,500 and recognizes the contribution of a professional preservation specialist who has been active in the field of preservation of library materials.  The award will be presented on Saturday, June 28, at the ALCTS Awards Ceremony during the 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

Reilly joined the RIT Department of Photographic Technology in the late 1970s. In 1984 he became the director of the newly formed RIT Photographic Preservation Laboratory, which became the Image Permanence Institute. Through nearly 30 years under his direction IPI has expanded its mission; today its work has an impact on almost all heritage collections, both nationally and internationally. Out of early studies on storage for film and photographic material, Reilly initiated the concepts of the “Preservation Index” and the “Time-Weighted Preservation Index,” a calculated number from combined temperature and relative humidity measurements that gives conservators, collection managers and administrators a simple language with which to compare storage environments. This research led to his team’s development of the widely popular PEM data loggers and Climate Notebook software, specifically addressing the needs of collection managers.

“This computer tool revolutionized how preservation professionals utilized temperature and relative humidity data, which used to languish on strips of paper from the hygrothermograph.” observed Tara Kennedy, preservation services librarian at the Yale University Library. “For the first time, we could analyze temperature and relative humidity data from data loggers into meaningful reports; finally, we were able to use environmental data to start to make real improvements in our collection storage spaces.”

Most recently, Jim Reilly has led IPI through a series of investigations on sustainable environments for cultural collections, which have demonstrated that responsible care of collections can also be green. Through laboratory experiments and practical assessments on site at libraries he has moved a whole generation of preservation professionals away from rote demands for “70˚ F and 50% RH” to a more nuanced understanding of what collections can tolerate and what conditions are necessary, at significant savings on fuel costs.

Especially notable throughout his career has been his commitment to sharing technical information in a way that is accessible to people who manage collections. His 1986 book "Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints" is a classic and has inspired the format of numerous subsequent guides by others exploring the technology and preservation of specific media. "The IPI Storage Guide for Acetate Film" (1993) set a new standard for preservation guides: firmly based on scientific research but short, direct and practical in its advice. In 1997 he was awarded a Technical Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his leadership in the development of the “AD Strip” – a simple tool that helps those holding collections of motion pictures identify and prioritize deteriorating cellulose acetate based film before its deterioration causes irreparable damage. For decades Reilly has been a high-demand teacher, speaker and author. Now in the digital world his projects and reports are shared widely on the Internet and his seminars have become Webinars viewed by thousands.

The Banks/Harris Preservation Award honors the memories of Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris, early leaders in library preservation.

The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) is the national association for information providers who work in collections and technical services, such as acquisitions, cataloging, metadata, collection management, preservation, electronic and continuing resources.

ALCTS is a division of the American Library Association.