Saturday, September 19, 2009
We went on a field trip yesterday. My chain of command very graciously gave up a whole day to have me run them around DC, looking at conservation labs.
We visited three, one in a library, two in museums, two of the labs were recent construction, one had been in the same location since the 1930's. Only one of the labs was specifically a book conservation lab, but seeing the different labs and hearing the differing stories of their construction process was tremendously helpful.
As I reviewed the day in my mind, and thought about what worked and didn't work in each setting, I could decide what might apply to my current lab project and save other ideas for our "future lab". And while our book lab will most likely never have an x-ray room, it was still helpful to hear the conservator at the facility we were visiting talk about the functionality of their x-ray room. The success of a lab of any type is reflected in its ability to accommodate the collections it needs to treat. It doesn't matter how spiffy the x-ray equipment might be if the hallway and doors to the room are too narrow to accommodate the majority of the materials in your collection. If your collection has a significant amount of maps, architectural drawings or over sized prints then you will absolutely need a large sink for washing and large tables for flattening and drying. In a way I am glad to have this "starter lab" first, to try out a few ideas and new pieces of equipment as I get to know the scope of the collections and figure out the size and volume of items I'll be treating. The better you know your collections the better you'll be able to plan the workflow and the lab.