Wednesday, September 30, 2009

getting closer

We needed some photos for the annual report,
so we had to stage them since the lab isn't quite finished.

I put some beakers in the cupboards
to make the place look a little more lived-in,
does it work? Maybe it you squint just a little?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Field Trip

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.

One of the take away messages from yesterday was "no detail is to small to think about". I will definitely keep this in mind!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


It is so exciting to see the lab start to come together. I arrived mid-renovation and jumped right into laying out the casework, sinks, benches, etc. There were drawings from the previous department head, but things had changed since her departure.

I had been in my previous lab for a number of years before the opportunity to change anything came along, which meant that my co-workers and I had plenty of time to decide what would suit our needs. Here, its a little different, everything is new and everything will hopefully move one day to the larger, collaborative conservation facility that the university is hoping to build.

The good news is that everything, including cabinets and sinks can be moved to the new facility, whenever and wherever it happens. So best effort, and keep going!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Repair

I've been working in the book repair unit while the lab is under construction. It is a great way to get to know a library collection- you get a sense of which parts of the collection are most heavily consulted by users, the age and scope of the collection, and how the books have been cared for over the years.

So far, the majority of the books have been from the main library which is mostly a humanities collection. There's a lot of wear and tear on the books, which tells me they've been used, which is a good sign in a circulating collection.

The work I'm doing in book repair also helps me decide which types of repair will be most useful to the library and which types of tools and paper and book cloth will fit the need. The library had a small operation before I got here, but now we can grow and create a workflow that truly complements the work of the conservation lab.

And besides, it's fun!