JHL Conservation Bulletin | September 2016

A quarterly installment highlighting Library Conservation in the Brown University community, conservation news around the internet, and ways for you to connect with conservation.

Book and paper conservation [at Brown]

Paul Banks‘ 10 Laws of Conservation. 1. No one can have access to a document that no longer exists. 2. Multiplication and dispersal increase chances for survival of information. 3. Books and documents deteriorate all the time. 4. Use causes wear. 5. Deterioration is irreversible. 6. The physical medium of a book or document contains information. 7. No reproduction can contain all the information contained in the original. 8. Authenticity cannot be restored. 9. Conservation treatment is interpretation. 10. No treatment is reversible.

Pronouncements, contradictions, and truths: there is so much to unpack. Like many other conservation professionals I think about this list often; especially when I see in my work space, a photocopy of a creased paper copy re-printed by a colleague years ago (re: laws 2, 4, 6, and 7). This list is valid for other specialites, how does it relate to you?

In house treatment at the Hay

Another ‘law’ proposed by a colleague suggests something along the lines of, “If it has been repaired once, it will be repaired again.”


A book from the Williams Table collection circulated to the lab because of detached boards. I could tell that the book had been rebacked with a traditional repair because of the two different leathers visible on both boards and the spine. More evidence of previous treatment were silked pages, pressure-sensitive tape, and infills throughout the text block. The text also contains volvelles, maps, and other complex printed matter that have survived intact. Did the binding repair fail due to popularity/ overuse (19 circulations alone since 2013), or because the materials or methods failed 100-or-so years later? And is that failure, or part of a life cycle?  This book has already been repaired once, and it is getting repaired again.

Find conservation online and in person

New technology isn’t just about computing, how will this medium age?

Multiple institutions in Boston have come together with exhibits, events, and a symposium devoted to medieval manuscript studies this November. If a trip to Boston is unappealing, participate in a do-it-yourself medieval manuscript tour throughout Rhode Island!

I admire conservators who empower communities by sharing specialized knowledge about collection care techniques. Or, commit to keeping traditions alive in communities apart from their own. However, art conservation as a community in the United States, both inside and out is problematic in its exclusivity. How can this be? We all abide by the same strict guidelines for our work. With more expensive and time consuming regulations around training, who can afford to be a professional? Do the demographics extend to conscious or unconscious bias when treating cultural property? Whose culture is it, anyway?


Forging the future of special collections. More to come in December.

-Rachel Lapkin, Library Materials Conservator