The Preservation Foundation


The Robert M. Grace Library houses a non-circulating reference collection of books, periodicals, and miscellaneous subject files, such as the House Files, that pertain to architecture in general, Florida architecture, historic preservation, horticulture and gardening, ethnobotony, landscape architecture, urban planning, and Palm Beach/Florida History. The most significant collection of books were donated to the foundation by Ambassador and Mrs. Edward Elson in 2005. The books in the library support the archival collections and the daily operations and advocacy issues of the foundation. The periodical collection in the library includes the Preservation Foundation Newsletter (1982 to the present).

The library itself is a beautiful reading room with a comfortable seating area that overlooks Pan's Garden. It was named in honor of Robert M. Grace by his wife, Jane Grace. Mr. Grace is a founder of the foundation and Mrs. Grace is on the executive board of the foundation. Members of the foundation and the community as well are invited to peruse the shelves for topics of interest. Appointments are requested.

The House Files of the Preservation Foundation

The House Files of the Preservation Foundation are a finding aid to miscellaneous information on significant houses, and occasionally insignificant houses, as well as other properties and structures in the town of Palm Beach, Florida. The House Files are a good starting point for investigating the history of a particular house, property, or street in Palm Beach. The House Files are an important resource for the community and for visiting architectural scholars and students of historic preservation. The types of useful information that often can be found in the files are:

  • Name of Architect
  • Estate Name
  • Building Date
  • Original Owner Name
  • Landmark Date
  • Landmark Designation Reports
  • Photographs
  • Street Plats
  • Floor Plans
  • Realtor Brochures
  • Newspaper and Magazine Articles

The House Files are arranged alphabetically by street name, then numerically by street number. For those addresses where there is very little information, reference to the house or a notation may be found in the first file of each street marked "General" (i.e., Brazilian Ave - General), rather than in a separate folder. Most properties, whether they are significant or insignificant, have an associated reference sheet called a Property Description Record that summarizes details about the house if known (i.e., name of architect, year house was built, etc.). The reference sheet may also include cross-references to other related addresses in the house files and to additional sources outside the house files.

The most relevant information in the House Files pertains to landmarked, historic, or architecturally significant properties, and Ballinger Award houses. In most cases, the Town of Palm Beach Landmarks Commission Designation Report for landmarked houses, and a copy of the Florida Master Site File sheet for every significant house can be found in the House Files. Photographs associated with particular addresses are also in the House Files.

Information in the House Files can be classified as primary or secondary. Much of the information in the files is secondary in nature because it consists of newspaper clippings from local newspapers that often contain errors. It is no longer the policy of the foundation to expend great amounts of staff or volunteer time collecting newspaper clippings. Occasionally no information can be found in the House Files for what would seem a significant property. Keep in mind that the House Files are evolving and in time will be more complete and germane. The intention is to include more primary source materials in the files and develop the files as a cross-reference to all relevant materials in the foundation's archives (i.e., original floor plans, slides, photographs, maps, rolled documents, subject files), as well as to known materials outside of the foundation that also pertain to individual addresses.

Recent books added to the library's Elson Book Collection include:

  • Architectural History of Venice
  • Architecture of Delano & Aldrich
  • Architecture of the Classical Interior
  • Baroque Landscape
  • Bernini and the Art of Architecture
  • Buildings of Charleston
  • Conservation of Historic Buildings
  • Florence: The City and Its Architecture
  • Four Books on Architecture
  • Frederick Law Olmsted
  • Garden Ornament
  • Gehry Talks
  • Golden Age of American Gardens
  • Hamptons: Life Behind the Hedges
  • Historic Preservation: An Introduction
  • How Buildings Work
  • I.M. Pei: A Profile in American Architecture
  • Master Builders
  • Modern Architecture Since 1900
  • New Civic Art: Elements of Town Planning
  • Oral History of Modern Architecture
  • Preservation of Historic Architecture
  • Roman Gardens
  • Seaside Style
  • Tiles and Tilework
  • Villas of Palladio

A small collection of periodicals that include current and non-current short runs are also housed in the library:

  • Architectural Digest (2001- )
  • Audubon (2005 - )
  • Palm Beach Sun (1946–52)
  • Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (1984 - )
  • Old-House Journal (1994 - )
  • History News (1984 - )
  • Historic Building Survey of Palm Beach (1981)
  • Florida Historical Quarterly (1959 - )
  • Florida Preservationist (1983 - )
  • South Florida History (1989 - )
  • Preservation Foundation Newsletter (1982 - )
    The foundation has been publishing a newsletter for the membership since 1982. A complete run of the publication is housed in the library. It is a fascination document of the foundation’s activities and initiatives, as well as a reference to community issues regarding preservation.

Articles of interest are written by staff that offer insight into local history, preservation law, National Trust standards, or simply “how to make your garden grow.” Over the years the Foundation Archivist, Carolyn S. Denton, submitted informative articles to the newsletter that addressed various archival preservation issues of interest. Click on a title for the full text of each article:

  • I have a book that has been in my family for a long time. Is there any way I can stop it from deteriorating?
  • What makes a book rare?
  • Should I digitize my photo collection? Is it safe to throw away my original film and prints after I digitize them?
  • Is a book signed or inscribed by a previous owner or autographed by the author more valuable than one that isn’t?
  • I have a pair of framed colored prints which have been hanging in my house for 20 years. Why do they seem to be fading and becoming monochromatic?
  • I have a large set of video cassette tapes. What can I do to preserve them?
  • How do I preserve my family papers?
I have a book that has been in my family for a long time. Is there any way I can stop it from deteriorating?

The book should be stored in a stable environment (archival standards are 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent relative humidity) and away from bright light. A consistent level of temperature and humidity with only a variation of + 2 is important, regardless of the actual settings of your thermostat, because it is the FLUCTUATIONS that cause structural damage to occur in books. Therefore, avoid attics and basements where there are extreme changes in temperature and humidity. Handle the book carefully and keep it dust free. Store the book standing upright on a shelf or lying flat. If storing on a bookshelf, do not tug on the top of the spine when removing it from the shelf. Instead, gently grasp the sides of the spine near the center of the book while pulling. Also, protect the cover of the book by using enclosures that are made of acid free paper or polyester, like Mylar (do not use freezer bags or plastic wrap). Archivally safe enclosures of all shapes and sizes can be bought from several suppliers, such as University Products ( or Gaylord ( Do not repair torn pages or spines with tape, or mark pages with post-a-notes or paper clips. If the book is important to you, and particularly if it is valuable, do not attempt any type of do-it-yourself conservation. Consult a professional.
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What makes a book rare?

Over the past 500 years, millions and millions of books, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, and broadsides have come off printing presses. Only a small portion of these pieces, however, would be considered “rare” by specialists. Basically, a book achieves some degree of rarity only when the demand for it is greater than the supply. Such a broad definition suggests that rarity is very subjecive. Indeed it is, and this fact keeps collectors, dealers, and librarians constantly on the lookout for books previously neglected but now seen as important. Unfortunately, there are no easy formulas or unequivocal guides to rarity. In fact, there is often no one distinctive feature that will set a rare book apart from other books. In the final analysis, the most essential factor is the book’s intrinsic importance, for only books with some acknowledged importance will have the consumer demand that creates market value and a sense of rarity.

The age of a book has little to do with its value. Specialists do use some broad time spans to establish dates of likely importance: e.g., all books printed before 1501, English books printed before 1641, books printed in the Americas before 1801, and books printed west of the Mississippi before 1850. These dates are rough guidelines at best and are always subject to the overriding factors of intrinsic importance, condition, and demand.

The kinds of publications that are usually not rare include bibles (because it is the single most printed book in the world and only certain important editions have value), sermons and religious instruction, collected editions of an author’s work, encyclopedias, textbooks, reprints, facsimiles, newspapers and magazines.
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Should I digitize my photo collection? Is it safe to throw away my original film and prints after I digitize them?

You may want to digitize your photographs because it offers safe and easy access to the images in your collection. Once your photographs have been scanned, you can view them in electronic form on your computer, send them to family and friends via the internet, and even make hard copies without risking damage to the originals. Do not throw away your original film and prints after you digitize them. Often the quality of the scanned image is not the same as the original because it is dependent on the quality of the scanner used and the expertise of the person doing the scanning. Digitized images are not considered a replacement for originals. While it is “sexy” these days to scan everything, the fact remains that as our ability to store media has increased, the fragility of the media has increased. Data (i.e., images of your photographs) can be lost when the storage media deteriorates and software and hardware technology become rapidly obsolete, in some cases making retrieval of the images difficult if not impossible. In essence, your original photographs are the “backup” to your digital images. Keep your originals!
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Is a book signed or inscribed by a previous owner or autographed by the author more valuable than one that isn’t?

The association of a book with a previous owner can add to a book’s value, depending on how well known the previous owner is and how important the book was in relation to the person. Indication of previous ownership may be in the form of an bookplate, signature, inscription, or other distinctive mark. All need to be authenticated before a positive statement of association and value can be made.

Finding a twentieth-century book signed by its author is quite common. Authors routinely make publicity tours across the country signing copies of their books, and their signatures alone do not have much importance. Still, autographed copies carry more value for collectors than unsigned copies. When trying to determine the worth of an author’s autograph, remember that books are signed for different reasons. In ascending level of interest these are: books signed as part of a publicity event; copies inscribed by request of the owner; copies of a book inscribed and presented by the author. The autographs of certain authors are always more desirable than others, and fads and fancies change so that only someone familiar with the market will be able to give a precise idea of the value of a signed or inscribed book.

I have a pair of framed colored prints which have been hanging in my house for 20 years. Why do they seem to be fading and becoming monochromatic?

Anything “color,” such as prints in color, color photographs, color photocopies, colored paper and fabrics, and colored inks will never last as long as their black and white counterparts. While advances in color technology have consistently improved the longevity of color inks and dyes (remember the “disappearing snapshots” of the early ‘60s?), color keepsakes and prints still must be treated with extra care.

Color is more sensitive to ultraviolet light which causes fading, enhanced acid production and brittleness in materials. Certain colors break down quicker than others. For instance, often reds and yellows fade quicker in a print than the blues, thereby producing a dull faded blue look in old prints which have been hanging in bright, sunlit rooms for long periods of time. Once a print has lost the luster of its original color, it can rarely be restored.

Most limited edition prints today are done on 100% cotton rag paper stock which contains no wood pulp products and is totally acid free. When framed, such prints should be mounted to an acid free backing board using acid free hinges that will not stain or burn the paper touching it. Valuable prints in color should always be framed with materials which are acid-free. UV absorbing glass that protect prints from the damaging effects of light should also be used. Most framers today offer conservation quality materials for important works of art. However, the customer must ask for it and be willing to pay the difference in price from standard framing. If your picture is of little importance or value to you then standard framing may suit … but remember, as with most things, you get what you pay for and picture framing is no exception.
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I have a large set of video cassette tapes. What can I do to preserve them?

Virtually all of the magnetic tape older than 10 years may be in serious jeopardy. The threat comes from several sources, but the largest threat is chemical in nature. It is the breakdown of the binder, or glue, that holds the magnetic particles to the polyester base of tape. Heat, dust and humidity are all factors that contribute to the demise of video collections. Other enemies are the video tape recorder and the video tape player. They must be kept clean and properly aligned so they will not damage tapes. As formats lose popularity and change, as with the advent of DVD, it is necessary to obtain service manuals and a stock of critical spare equipment parts. The logical alternative is to transfer videos to newer and better formats. The least expensive protection is usually purchasing new copies of favorite movies on tape or disk. For locally produced, old, or out-of-print videotape, proper care is the only way to prolong life. Avoid fluctuation in temperature and humidity where tapes are stored. Keep tapes clean and out of the light. Avoid strong magnetic fields. Keep tapes in vinyl cases, not paper boxes. “Exercise” tapes every six months by fast forwarding and rewinding. Keep equipment in good working order. Make copies. Hope for the best.
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How do I preserve my family papers?

Paper preservation requires proper storage and safe handling practices. Your family documents will last longer if they are stored in a stable environment, similar to that which you find comfortable for yourselves, 70 degrees (?2) F and 45% (?2) relative humidity, with clean air and good circulation. The key is to maintain consistent levels of temperature and humidity, which can be difficult in Florida. Keep in mind that it is the FLUCTUATIONS in temp/humidity that cause structural damages to materials. High heat and moisture accelerate the chemical processes that result in embrittlement and discoloration of paper. Damp environments may also result in mold growth or become conducive to pests that might use the documents for food or nesting. Therefore, the central part of your home, away from damaging ultra violet light sources, provides a safer storage environment than a hot attic, garage or damp basement.

Family papers should be stored in appropriate sized enclosures, such as Mylar sleeves, folders, boxes, or portfolios that will provide physical protection as well as protection from light and dust. The enclosures should be made of stable, acid free materials that will not contribute to the deterioration of the papers. Archival quality enclosures are readily available at large art stores or can be ordered from online sources such as University Products ( or Gaylord ( Don’t repair papers with tape, or mark pages with post-a-notes or paper clips. It is best to do as little as possible to the paper itself, except provide the best, most constant environmental protection possible.
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