Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Once You've Got it, You've Got to Fight to Keep it. A tour of the British Library Conservation Studio

Photo by: Melissa Proulx

On our final week in London it was back to the British Library, this time for a trip to their conservation studio. Their facility of state of the art, with its own dedicated building within the library itself. For a library as large and important as the British Library it seems only natural that they would want a space to do most of their own conservation work. Opened only 4 years ago the conservation studio is one of the leading institutions in the world for book preservation, conservation and restoration.

The Teams

There are several teams working within the center, all with unique jobs but all devoted to the work of keeping book treasures safe and usable for future generations.

Their Preservation Advisement Center contains a small, but highly dedicated team, of librarians and archivists who help to share methods and practices with other libraries to help them educate their own staff on matters of conservation.

The British Library does a great deal of Intervention Conservation, running repairs, and preparing items for exhibition.

The Conservation Science Research Department works on storage, pests, guidelines and environmental monitoring for the library.

They manage conservation both for those materials in the library and those in storage far away. The storage items are kept in a chamber with no more than 15% oxygen which prevents, pests, fires, and other problems that could destroy the books. For those books in danger of being destroyed or falling apart the studio will assess and then decide which books they will work on repairing. The process is vigorous and highly skilled, using binding skills, chemistry knowledge and artistry to preserve and restore books to as perfect a condition as modern technology allows. The studio is brightly lit, clean, and contains a number of work stations each with their own tasks and conservator.

Conservation is an area that I believe all library students, not just archivists, should be aware of and so I felt very lucky to have had this be the final tour of the visit. Librarians are responsible for the care of book from its acquisition in the library until it leaves, to end with conservation felt only fitting.

Bench at the British Library: Photo by Melissa Proulx


British Library Conservation Studio

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