Conservation Tips: Sharing knowledge, Solving Problems

Conservation Department tips session.
Conservation Department tips session.

When I first started here we had a variety of skill sets on the staff. To help build our skills, share ideas and create a forum to ask questions, I started “Tuesday Tips at Two,” a weekly meeting with the staff. On Tuesdays we would gather and share tips and tricks on everything from turning corners on cloth clamshell boxes to controlling the curling of the endsheets when putting a new case on a text block.

Those weekly tip sessions have turned into monthly ones. Before our monthly staff meeting, if someone has a tip or wants opinions about how to solve a treatment problem, we gather as a group to  learn from each other or to offer feedback.

Corner repair demo.
Jig for corner fills.

Last month we had a double-tip session. Mary presented a tip on using Japanese tissue and paste to fill lost corners on 19th Century publisher’s bindings, and Erin presented a tip on using embossing plates (sold in craft stores) to mimic the pressed-fabric you often see on 19th Century publisher’s bindings. It was an educational and fun tips session.

Embossing plates (purple).
Embossing plates (purple).
Embossed repair tissue.
Embossed repair tissue.

6 thoughts on “Conservation Tips: Sharing knowledge, Solving Problems”

    1. Thanks Melissa. We don’t have Tips every month, but when we do I always enjoy learning something new from my colleagues in the lab.

  1. I have more of a question than a comment. Our rural small museums and even librarys have so little information on basic book repairs, cleaning and proper storage of books. The organization of there materials are overwhelming to many people in a museum. They try their best but do not have the skills. Why doesn’t Cornell make a series of u-tube videos that just give some basic information on organization of artifacts in a small town librarys and repairs of common problems of maps or books etc. that have been collected in the towns?

    1. Kent, thanks for the comment. Having worked with a lot of small institutions I know this can be a difficult issue. If you aren’t familiar with the NEDCC preservation leaflets they do have some basic conservation information. The NPS also has a lot of information in their Conserve-O-Gram series, although not a lot of conservation instruction. I’m not sure where you are located, but there are often affordable book repair training options regionally or locally. Check with Lyrasis and if you are in North Carolina, check with the North Carolina Preservation Consortium, both of them have affordable classes. In terms of a reference book, look at the Alaska State Library manual written by Artemis BonaDea. I think this is a pretty good, basic manual.

      There are a lot of online videos out there but you have to be very, very careful in choosing ones that give you good information vs. bad information (most of the online tutorials I have seen give you very bad information). I think our field’s reluctance to put training videos online stems from the fact that we know how complicated repairs can be and how fast things can go wrong during treatment, even minor treatments. The wrong choice of adhesives, repair materials or methods can cause permanent damage to original materials and we don’t want to feel responsible for telling people “you can do this” when maybe they really can’t or shouldn’t. It’s tough, I know, because most institutions do not have conservators on staff or a budget that would allow you to send items out for conservation. But we also have our own ethical standards we are required to adhere to, which sometimes precludes us from saying “just do it.”

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