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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The British Library Conservation Studio

For our last class we visited the Conservation Studio at the British Library. After a review of the history of the library and some interesting facts, we were taken on a tour of the studio and observed two different workers working on two different restoration projects. Employees work on many different types of items, everything from stamps to palm leaves, which is what we watched an employee restore. After that, we watched an employee place the gold lettering on the outside of a leather bound book. Both techniques were very interesting to watch; both employees explained the techniques they were using to our class and answered all our questions thoroughly.

The purpose of conservation studio is not to restore items. They work on them to restore them with reversible techniques. Employees take detailed pictures of items before and after they complete their work. Five teams of curators deal with specific items such as maps, miniatures, wall hangings, etc. They bid for the time of the conservators, who have time allotments for working with each curator.

Currently, palm leaves are being restored. They were created in the 17th century in Asia. Text was placed on them, creating a book. The leaves were tied together with strings however today those strings are no longer there. The text placed on the leaves was originally from 13th or 14th century. Watching such work taking place was extremely interesting and I am not only fortunate to have observed, but very grateful. I think visiting the conservation studio was the perfect ending to such a fantastic semester in the UK.

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