Preserving Our Heritage: Perspectives from Antiquity to the Digital Age. Edited by Michèle Valerie Cloonan. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2015. 736 p. Paper $98 (ISBN: 978-155570-937-2).

Far-reaching yet approachable, Michèle V. Cloonan’s anthology of readings in cultural heritage preservation is the reference work I wish I’d had at my fingertips as a student. In keeping with its stated audience, the volume is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students in cultural heritage fields, practitioners of every stripe, and interdisciplinary scholars and professionals looking for a guide to the literature of preservation.

Together with a seven-member advisory board whose members, like her, are veteran practitioners and educators, Cloonan has selected more than ninety key texts ranging from the Old Testament to the latest in time-based media. The readings include many of the “classics” that are a continuous presence in citations and syllabi, as well as others that deserve to be more widely known. The selections are well-organized into eleven categories that allow the reader to narrow her focus on a particular area of interest (such as Sustainability, Ethics and Values, or Collections: Development and Management) or to detect productive juxtapositions across texts. A brief essay providing valuable context introduces each chapter and illuminates relationships among the texts to follow. Taken together, these categories offer an excellent overview of prevailing themes in the literature of preservation and suggest avenues for further study.

Cloonan’s concerted effort to bring together related readings from across the cultural heritage disciplines—libraries, archives, museums, and historic preservation—is one of the book’s strengths, highlighting the diversity and commonality of the issues faced in these fields. And although a separate, small section devoted to “Multicultural Perspectives” could easily feel tokenizing, Cloonan avoids this pitfall by incorporating relevant material throughout, particularly texts relating to indigenous cultural heritage.

The readings themselves are greatly enhanced by a fifteen-page Preservation Timeline with a brief bibliography of suggestions for further reading. The timeline covers changes in the science and technology of recordmaking, influential writings, the establishment of important institutions and bodies, key court cases, and more. The volume also features a list of contributors that provides information about each author, a valuable list of sources credited in the chapter introductions, an author and title index, and a thorough subject index.

In her epilogue, Cloonan suggests several nodes around which further research and publications might concentrate. Indeed, one drawback of such a sweeping anthology is that it will inevitably become outdated nearly as soon as it is published; the most recent texts included are now already two to three years old. Even so, Cloonan proves herself forward-thinking, as the foci she identifies are indeed the subject of some of the most important and exciting current work: the proliferation of digital media, the needs and rights of information creators and users, citizen science and citizen journalism, the environment. Preserving Our Heritage offers the foundation we need if we are to develop creative and informed solutions and to produce the next generation of “classic” preservation literature.—Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet, MLIS


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