Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 10


  1. Enjoying the peacefulness of Regent's Park
  2. Finally feeling a sense of accomplishment about my school work
  3. Appreciating the amazing amount of time and attention to detail that goes in to library conservation
  4. And apparently I didn't take a single picture this day...

All the Details:

Regent’s Park

On Friday morning I decided to head to Regent’s Park to get some school work done. I love how easy it is in London to go from a busy area full of loud tourists to a peaceful setting like the parks. I was able to sit on a bench and enjoy the day, and actually got a lot of work done. Then I headed over to the British Library to meet up with my class.

British Library Conservation Centre 

At the British Library Conservation Centre we got a small look into some of the ways that the conservation team works with the library and its patrons. They are responsible for maintaining, not only the print collection held by the library, but also the textiles, artwork, manuscripts, and other pieces in the collections. The conservation team is also very involved in the digitization and exhibition processes. Once a year the conservationists take time to create a prioritized list of materials needing attention to help them focus on items that need the most care. They consider how often the item is used, its current condition, and its unique qualities that add value to the collection. In addition, materials that will be on exhibition or loan to other locations must be checked and prepared beforehand. The over-arching idea of conservation is that any work done to a material must always be reversible. As a result, the team has developed fascinating ways of preserving materials in a way that can be undone if necessary.

After a general introduction we spoke with a conservationist that is currently working on piecing together small fragments of documents found untouched inside remote caves. The documents had been folded and stacked together, forming a large pile of papers. It is the conservationist’s job to pull apart the fragments and piece them back together again in their original order. I was in awe of the skill required to take on a project of this scale. We were basically watching her turn a pile of decaying trash into readable text. Not only must she determine which parts of the pile are from which documents, she also has to place the fragments together to form text, digitize the results, and translate the writing. I was extremely impressed by the final result, which was placed inside a protective plastic cover.

Next we were able to see a small demonstration about book bindings. We were shown examples of many different ways that books can be sewn and bound and then got to see blank pages being sewn together to form a whole new book. The goal of a book binder is to preserve the original binding or replace it with a new binding as similar to the original as possible. Sewing the book binding looked like a fun job to have in the Conservation Centre!

We also got to see how the textiles conservationist is repairing two very fragile flags from the late 1770s. Unfortunately, the flags are in very bad shape and have lost almost all of their original patterns and colors. The textiles specialist has been able to flatten them after years of being rolled up and cleaned them to rid them of a large amount of dirt and soot. The time spent on projects like this is absolutely amazing! Another time consuming project we saw was focused on the digitization of the Hebrew collection at the British Library. The conservationist involved in the project showed us how she uses non-reactive fabrics and gelatin to protect the printed materials. This reduces moisture damage to the pages and ink. Overall, the visit was informative and fascinating. I had always known that conservation played a part in taking care of library materials, but I was not aware of the extensive time and precise technique that was involved. Conservation is definitely a topic that I would like to continue learning more about.

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