What Conservators Need To Know

I’m often asked how you become a conservator and what we need to know to do our jobs. Here’s a short list of the skills all good library conservators have:

  • Knowledge of the history of the book and printing
  • An understanding of organic chemistry, especially as it applies to paper, leather, parchment and pigment manufacturing and deterioration mechanisms
  • Knowledge of historic and modern materials (paper, thread, cloth, inks, pigments, skin, etc.)
  • Skills in mending and housing a variety of archival formats (books, paper, audio-visual, felt dolls, early codices, etc.)
  • Understanding of libraries (mission, language, organization, etc.)
  • Critical thinking, decision-making, communication, and research skills, not to mention computer and photographic skills.

But there is one skill that every conservator needs that we use almost every day…

We love our cork floors!


Cat-like reflexes.

These are particularly useful for when you drop your scalpel on the floor.

5 thoughts on “What Conservators Need To Know”

  1. Great post, Beth. I’m going to steer people who ask me that question to your concise and effective description from now on. Also, I am mad envious of your cork flooring in the lab!

    1. I love this floor. It makes standing for long periods really easy. It has its downsides, too, but overall we have been really happy with it.

      1. I too love the idea of cork floors! Can you get them in floor mat format for placing at work stations? Are they hard to clean?

        1. Kathy, I have no idea if they are available in floor mats. You would have to look around. I would say they are hard to clean. The floors need to be sealed every couple of years or so, and they hate water.

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