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