Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Starting a conservation lab from scratch has many challenges, from figuring out cabinets, sourcing equipment, to determining security protocols. One of the on-going "mini" challenges has been the shopping. The other labs I have worked in were working labs when I got there, a couple of them had been in operation for nearly 30 years. There were drawers full of paper, brushes, tools, leather hides, and rolls and rolls of book cloth. Digging into all the supplies could be a lot of fun, and had its mysterious/archeological aspect (what were they going to do with all this silicone release paper??? were gusseted endsheets going to save the world??). But my new lab is so new that there are no supplies. Our book repair unit has some things, but a lot of it will stay where it is.

So, starting from scratch means having to think of everything that has ever been useful, trying to remember what it's called, who might sell it and figuring out how much I need. Everyone is probably used to doing this to some degree for their daily life, but it is just a little different in a conservation lab. Some things are obvious, such as a board shear or book press, and even though they are scarce and specialized pieces of equipment, there is a guy who specializes in maintenance and sales. Then there are the less obvious things like the rubber mesh that is really nifty to layer onto a drying rack shelf so that the paper you are drying has more even support than the plain shelf grid- I remember that it is green mesh, probably rubber, but there was already a roll of it at my previous lab, so I am not exactly sure what the product is called or where it was ordered from- fortunately I'm pretty good at figuring these things out, and working in book repair while I wait for the lab helps to jog my memory.

But still, I have a lot of lists and leads to work through!