Banner: REALM Project

Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Information Hub: A COVID-19 Research Project

As libraries and museums around the country begin to resume operations and reopen facilities to the public, there is need for clear information to support the handling of core museum, library, and archival materials.   

OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle are conducting research on how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries, archives, and museums. The project will draw upon the research to produce authoritative, science-based information on how—or if— materials can be handled to mitigate exposure to staff and visitors.

To achieve these goals, the REALM project will:

  • Collect, review, and summarize authoritative research that applies to materials commonly found in the collections and facilities of archives, libraries, and museums
  • Ongoing consultation and engagement with a project steering committee, working groups, and other subject matter experts from archives, libraries, and museums
  • Laboratory testing of how COVID-19 interacts with a selection of materials commonly found in archives, libraries, and museums; and identifying methods of handling and remediation
  • Synthesize the above inputs into toolkit resources that support reopening and operational considerations
  • Share project information and toolkit resources through the project website and amplified by member associations and support organizations that serve archives, libraries, and/or museums.

Research timeline 

This project is designed to be flexible and evolve as more becomes known about the virus and practices to reduce risk of transmission. The partnership will address known and emergent research questions in three phases:

Phase 1: Preparing for Reopened Libraries: Research on High-Priority Materials and Workflows (May 2020 – August 2020)

This phase will collect, curate, and disseminate information and illustrative practices for handling physical collections and facilities in anticipation of a phased-in or full reopening of public library buildings and services starting as early as May 2020. This phase will produce an initial set of toolkit resources.

Activities include:

Phase 2: Additional Research to Support Operations of Libraries, Archives, and Museums (June 2020 – October 2020)
This phase will study a second set of materials and workflows across libraries, archives/special collections, and museums. This set will include any materials and workflows that have factors that were not addressed in Phase 1 but are important to the function of archives, libraries, and/or museums. The research activities will produce a second set of toolkit resources, and will update Phase 1 resources with new information that may have emerged. A more fully designed website will be launched during this phase.

Phase 3: Monitor, Update, Communicate (October 2020 – September 2021)
In Phase 3, the project will continue to monitor and review emerging research that may require updates and additions to what has been created during the first two phases. In addition, as the rate of transmission for the virus changes over time and communities continue to adjust to those changes, the policies and practices of libraries and museums may also warrant a change.

REALM Project Steering Committee

A project steering committee comprised of leaders from across the archive, library, museum, and scientific fields are meeting regularly to provide guidance through the duration of the research study.

  • Susan Benton, Urban Libraries Council (ULC)
  • Deirdre Brennan, Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS)
  • Tim Cherubini, Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA)
  • Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC
  • Cristin Dorgelo, Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC)
  • Lisa J. Gugenheim, American Museum of Natural History
  • Nate Hill, Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO)
  • Laura Huerta Migus, Association of Children’s Museums (ACM)
  • Crosby Kemper, IMLS
  • Gerald Leitner, The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
  • Pat Losinski, Columbus Metropolitan Library
  • Laura Lott, American Alliance of Museums (AAM)
  • Angela Maycock, Public Library Association (PLA)
  • Scott Miller, Smithsonian
  • Jim Neal, Columbia University
  • Allison Olson, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • Mark Sweeney, Library of Congress (LOC)
  • Eryl Wentworth, Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC)

REALM Scientific Working Group

  • Frederic Bertley, Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
  • Connie Bodner, IMLS
  • Fenella France, Library of Congress (LOC)
  • Jennifer Herrmann, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • Nate Hill, Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO)
  • Paul Messier, Yale
  • Scott Miller, Smithsonian
  • Jacob Nadal, Library of Congress (LOC)
  • Chip Nilges, OCLC
  • Ellen Pearlstein, UCLA
  • Hannelore Roemich, New York University
  • Mary F. Striegel, National Park Service

REALM Operations Working Group

  • Paul Bouseman, Mesker Park Zoo and Botanical Gardens
  • Dierdre Brennan, Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS)
  • Bexx Caswell-Olson, Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)
  • Chris Carron, Indianapolis Children's Museum
  • Carole Charnow, Boston Children's Museum
  • Carolyn Coulter, PrairieCat
  • Carol Frost, Peninsula Library System
  • William Harris, Space Center Houston
  • Nate Hill, Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO)
  • Katie Monroe, Association of Research Libraries
  • Patricia Silence, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
  • Belinda Tate, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

How to stay connected

We encourage you to sign up to receive project updates by email and/or bookmark this page, as it will be the primary source for sharing all program results and resources. You can also follow OCLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn for the latest project updates and join the conversation using #REALMproject. 


For media inquiries, contact Bob Murphy at [email protected] or +1-614-761-5136


This site synthesizes various studies and data; however, the scientific understanding regarding COVID-19 is continuously evolving. This material is being provided for informational purposes only, and readers are encouraged to review federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local guidance. The authors, sponsors, and researchers are not liable for any damages resulting from use, misuse, or reliance upon this information, or any errors or omissions herein.