LIS 580 British Studies
British Library Conservation Center
June 10, 2016
In the morning Stacie, Kim, Cherie and I travelled back to the British Library where we got our reader's cards and started on our research.
We crossed paths with Kevin Mehmet again. He was as welcoming and kind as in our first meeting and rounded out the great experience of getting our Reader's cards. We were official readers! We then split up and Kim and I went to the Humanities 2 reading room to collect the items that we had ordered previously. This reading room is one of the more quiet rooms and it felt very academic indeed!
Met up with the girls for lunch before our afternoon academic tour.
The Centre for Conservation at the British Library
We started our tour at the Foyle Exhibition area of the Conservation Centre. Our host was Dr. Cordelia Rogerson, Head of Conservation.
The British Library is culturally diverse. It has an extensive Heritage Collection and more paintings than the National Gallery. It has the collection of the India Office Records. It has archeological finds and fragments. It has textiles from Asia and Africa. The collection contains metals, ceramics, firearms, and gemstones. It is a cultural, archival, and literary collection. The Collection Care Department of the British Library is dedicated to preservation, conservation, conservation research, and digital preservation.
The books and items are stored at optimal environmental for preservation. Preservation is the key because repairs must be prioritized. When items become too damaged or fragile surrogates are created for them.
We were introduced to a conservation effort involving scrolls that had been in caves for thousands of years. After that time and under pressure and the conditions the stacks of papers were bonded onto one another. During the process of conservation, photographs and extensive notes document every step of the way. As they differentiate the layers they use tissues of inert materials that are non-reactive to stabilize the fragile fragments. The materials that add structural support must be attached in a reversible way. In the past facings and plastic coatings were used and that did not maintain the integrity of the original items.
Then we were given a practical demonstration of book conservation. To bind or rebind a book they stitch them together and use tape bindings. They try to use the binding and sewing style of the original item to preserve the integrity of the item.
Next, we saw the textile conservation efforts. They are working on flags that were part of the Royal East India Company Volunteers from circa 1779. In 1880 they were hung in an exhibition in Earl's Court. When they were unearthed they were covered in soot and looked like they had been chewed up by rats. They developed a special wash bath to wash them sandwiched between polyester sheets. During a previous effort to conserve them, they stitched them to netting. They use glass to plates iron and control re-humidification.
Finally, we saw the Hebrew Project of Digitization. They are in phase II of digitizing 1500 items. During the digitization, they register and repair damage. They use Kozo 1 tissue in the repair. There are codexes and scrolls, made of parchments and leather. Each project has its own criteria of materials and protocols used.
During each of these types of conservation, we were reminded that reversibility is paramount.
The Conservation Centre has been in its current building for 9 years. Its 3 top floors are dedicated to conservation. The two main floors hold supplies, meeting rooms, and a dedicated conservation reference library. Most of its windows face the north preventing the exposure to direct sunlight. It is climate controlled, unlike the previous building. It is part of the newly regentrified Knowledge Corridor Quarter that includes a new Google building and the Crick Institute for Biomedical Research.
Book: Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell
Movie: In honor of the PUNK exhibition at the British Library: Rock and Roll High School starring the Ramones.