Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beginning Book Conservation

The journey to becoming a book conservator is long, like all fields in conservation and requires an understanding of many arts. There are vastly different paths you can take to achieving an education, but it all begins with a love of the book.. It could be the simple comforting pleasure you get holding a book in your hand, smelling the ink on its pages or admiring the special technique used to bind it all together. A book has a function. It is meant to be handled and goes through more abuse than paintings or sculptures. Your perspective begins to change once you realize that you are conserving something that will be touched repeatedly throughout the years to come. The older the specimen the better condition it is, hopefully, stored in, but remember, its primary function is to be opened and admired.

My journey began in graphic design and the desire to create great graphic novels in the art world, but my eyes were opened one semester when I signed up for Art of the Book, changing my perspective on the book world. A form of art, bookbinding, unraveled before my eyes and it was then that I knew my career of working with books had become more focused. A book conservator’s skills all begin with bookbinding. The continual practice of dexterity is vital to your success, but bookbinding encompasses so many other faces. Woodworking (pesky wooden panel covers), hand-crafting the perfect tool to add to your arsenal of conservation, leather paring, embroidery, paper making, etc. It’s good to sign up for all types of workshops. I’m sure metal working is in there somewhere. Vocational schools that offer 2 to 4 years training are the American Academy of Bookbinding and the North Bennet Street School.

It is also important to be involved in your book community, big or small. There are book lovers out there in every neck of the woods and learning about rare books, special editions, history behind printings, and the evolvement of the book over time are important to understanding the era a book comes from. What type of paper and bindings were popular during the 17th century? What is the base of the ink used? Can you remain true to the book’s original heritage? These questions you must ask yourself when approaching any conservation treatment.

I am just at the beginning of this journey and the sources of information on bookbinding and workshops are in no short supply. Book arts and bookbinding do not always go hand-in-hand in book conservation, but there are many book art centers around the country that offer classes in bookbinding, letterpress, printmaking and more to get you started learning the fundamentals. The west coast has the San Francisco Center of the Book and the east coast has the Center for Book Arts in New York City. Be sure to check out local community colleges, as they can hold one day workshops in their art departments. Talk with local rare book dealers and don’t forget about your local library. Often times, preservation departments are hard to find on library sites so be prepared to email a lot of questions. If a library doesn’t have an onsite lab, then find out where they are sending their books out for treatment. Check with your State Archives offices for internships with works on paper.

One question that has been brought to my attention repeatedly and I’ve yet to find an answer for, is if you want to go into book conservation should you be getting a master’s in library sciences? This is where I am having a moment of hesitation because I have started my graduate studies strictly in art conservation and the option of library sciences was only recently presented. If you have the desire to work strictly in a library as a conservator, is an MSLS required? I’ve learned quite a bit and gleaned a lot of information from a variety of sources, but with questions answered more are bound to arise. I believe it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey into book conservation will be different and finding the best path for your needs and goals is vital. There are no concrete paths, but you must hone your skill. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. If all else fails, remember to read, read, read. Know your history and truly embody what the book is all about.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #7: Read, read, read...then create an annotated bibliography

Websites and blogs contain a lot of helpful information, but you can still learn about conservation the “old-fashioned” way—by reading a book or article! Once you’ve done that, put together an annotated bibliography in order to remember that information for the future. For those of you that are pre-program, an annotated bibliography makes a great addition to your portfolio, and there may not be another opportunity to do it once you begin a conservation program.

With so many wonderful conservation books and journals, the largest problem is deciding where to start! A good idea may be to begin reading about the projects you’re working on, and then move on to specific interests (maybe they’re one in the same). From there, ask for recommendations from your supervisor(s). If they’re willing, consider discussing articles with them, because sometimes the information you read about is outdated and completely irrelevant, but you’d never know as a beginner.

If you’re planning on attending a conservation graduate program some day, get a head start and ask for the reading list required of their students; these sources may be broad in scope, but it’s valuable to learn the basics of all materials, even if you’ve already decided on one specialty. Finally, from all of these books and articles, you can check the authors’ references and suggested bibliographies to continue your reading.

Some of the staple conservation books are worth buying, if you can afford to. Multiple people have recommended these to me: Mills & White, The Organic Chemistry of Museum Objects, or Artists’ Pigments, vols. 1-4. Sometimes there will be discounted book sales posted on the distlist, so keep an eye out for that. Also, museums should have a collection of good books and journals in their conservation department and/or in the library for you to borrow, and you may even be able to find some things at your local university or public library. As always, you can find free resources online, like the JAIC archive, or the JCAC archive; just be sure they're from a reputable source. Happy reading!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

December Meeting Minutes


December 16, 2010

Conference Call Attendees:
Ryan Winfield

Karen Pavelka

Amy Brost

Heather Brown

Rose Daly

Ruth Seyler

Stephanie Porto

I. ECPN November meeting minutes approved unanimously

II. Angels Project (Ryan)

a. Site selection in progress. Send ideas to Ruth Seyler. One idea is to use CAP (Conservation Assessment Program) applications, because those sites self-selected for assistance. Decision to come early 2011. Amy and Ruth can work together on publicity as needed; AIC generally handles press releases and media relations for the annual meeting and Angels Project. ECPN members should forward media contacts to Ruth.

III. 2011 AIC Meeting – ECPN Poster (Heather/Amy)

a. Heather received abstract updates from Rose. Amy will create the poster following the ‘2011 Poster Guidelines’ document, using the committee charge plus bullets about initiatives in each area. Amy will reach out to Morgan Gilpatrick, AIC Communications Director, for AIC logo and design guidelines.

b. Coordinators will provide a couple of bullet points about their initiatives to Amy for the poster, along with any print-quality images they might have. Rose will notify Carrie and Amber about bullet points.

c. Images will include a few “actions shots” and/or photos to identify ECPN members. Some images from ECPN and AIC Flickr pages may be used.

IV. 2011 AIC Meeting – ECPN Dinner (Heather)

a. Group determined that McGillin’s Olde Ale House was the best choice. Dinner to be informal, drop-in style, 6-10 pm on Friday. Talks end at 5:30 that day, so 6 pm is ideal.

V. 2011 AIC Meeting – ECPN Business Meeting (Rose)

a. Business meeting will take place 5:30-6:30 pm on Tuesday. No food needed. Rose will explore whether Skype or audioconferencing could be used to involve more people, but Ruth advised that the hotel will charge for this.

VI. AIC Website, CoOL and Student Research Database (Ryan)

a. The AIC website is in transition, and CoOL is being transitioned to AIC servers from Stanford, the long-time host. Per Ryan, hold the discussion about the possibility of hosting the Student Research Database as part of CoOL until after the transition. Since CoOL requests go through Nancie Ravenel, Carrie could speak with her about this possibility.

VII. Mentoring Program (Ryan)

a. This program is still in the early stages, with the first group of matches recently completed (15 mentor-mentee pairs). Prior to that, there was a small test group. The program has run for one year so far.

b. The following deadlines were added to the webpage by Ryan: 3/1, 6/1, 9/1, and 12/1. All the data collected from the online application flows into a spreadsheet that can be used to manage the matching process. Currently, mentor requests exceed mentor applications, but Rose and Ryan are able to make inquiries with potential mentors when a prospective mentee applies.

c. A survey is being developed to measure the effectiveness of the program. Anecdotal feedback indicates that some matches have been very successful, while some did not generate a sustained connection. Survey results could be used to help promote the program online and in the newsletter (“Success stories”)

d. Developing FAQ’s for mentors and mentees could also be helpful.

VIII. AIC News Articles from ECPN (Amy/Heather)

a. Topic #1 – ECPN at the 2011 AIC Annual Meeting (Amy). Deadline is February 1 for March issue. Include Angels Project if determined.

b. Topic #2 – Mentoring Program (Heather). Deadline is April 1 for May issue. Will be a good time to promote applications by the 6/1 deadline.

IX. OSG Wiki

a. Amy brought a request from Rachael Perkins Arenstein, e-Editor, to find out how to involve ECPN in expanding the OSG Wiki. Ideas included:

b. Reach out to training program heads, so they can inform their graduate students of the opportunity to publish on the Wiki and help their peers

c. Reach out to institutions that have fellowships in objects conservation (Straus at Harvard, NMAI, Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, etc.) so they can inform fellows

d. Promote the idea in ECPN materials and add Wikis to the committee charge

e. Promote the idea at ECPN activities at the 2011 AIC Meeting

f. Need to ensure quality control on the Wikis, and with cooperation from training program faculty, could vet student work for inclusion.

g. Amy will get back to Rachael with this list of ideas. Find out if Rachael will do the actual posting or if institutions would post directly to the Wiki. Also, ask Rachael to put a request out to the specialty groups to find out which ones are interested in involving students and post-graduate fellows in creating Wiki content.

h. Stephanie Porto (ECC liaison and chair of the RATS specialty group) mentioned that she would be interested in students contributing content to the RATS Wiki.

X. Outreach Update (Heather)

a. Everyone praised the “10 Tips” series on the blog. Very substantial.

b. Rose suggested that the next series on the blog could be the “Top 10” things to know about private practice. Heather suggested profiles of people in private practice who give their own top 10 list, and perhaps have someone from each specialty, since the needs are so different. Each person profiled might also be willing to share a “Resources” list for their specialty, to help other conservators starting out in the same specialty and procuring supplies, which could accompany the blog post.

c. Heather/Rose to explore rolling ECPN Flickr page into AIC Flickr page.

d. Heather to draft AIC news column about the Mentor Program.

XI. Communications Update (Amy)

a. Flier text is complete and was reviewed on a prior call. Ryan provided Morgan Gilpatrick’s contact information. Amy to follow up to ask about logos and design guidelines, and then lay out the flier as letter-size PDF.

b. Amy suggested the flier format with detachable wallet card might be good for the 2011 AIC conference bag, or as a take-one at the poster.

c. Amy to provide a draft of news column about ECPN at the AIC meeting for the next call for review (due date Feb. 1)

d. Upon receipt of design guidelines and coordinator bullet lists/images, Amy will lay out the poster.

XII. Portfolio Review Sessions (Rose)

a. It would be ideal to offer portfolio reviews at the 2011 AIC meeting, perhaps two representatives from each school, one showing the pre-program portfolio and one showing the graduate-level portfolio. Portfolio reviews are an opportunity for both pre-program and graduate students.

b. Rose and Amber are following up with the graduate programs to see if any students will volunteer to present their portfolios. Need a good distribution of students from the various programs, as well as examples of both types of portfolios.

c. Compile and distribute links to students’ online portfolios, so pre-program and students-in-training can learn from them.

Next conference call 1 PM EST, Thursday, January 21, 2011.

Respectfully submitted,

Amy Brost

Friday, January 14, 2011

Check out these posts on the AIC news blog by Jessica Ford and Katherine Langdon, two Indianapolis Museum of Art conservation interns.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #6: Attend conferences, lectures and workshops

Like lab visits, attending educational events can teach you a great deal about conservation, as well as give you an opportunity to meet other conservators, scientists, artists, and museum professionals. Take a look at the calendars of local museums, galleries, universities and conservation guilds to find out what’s happening.

Here’s an example of a conference on photographic materials summarized by Amy Brost.

Professional organizations generally hold an annual conference, which offers a plethora of lectures and workshops…enough to make it worth the trip to another state. AIC’s annual conference will be held in Philadelphia in 2011, and includes a variety of interesting paper topics, courses, and tours of conservation labs (see the schedule here). You can also check the websites of other organizations listed in tip #2 for upcoming conferences and events.

Even for those already in the field of conservation, continuing education is a necessity to stay abreast of current theory and practice. If you read the distlist, you’ll see posts about upcoming events every week, that target a breadth of audiences. Though some can be pricey, there are many talks and webinars that cost absolutely nothing, like this lecture by Carol Mancusi-Ungaro at the Menil Collection in Houston, or the Connecting to Collections webinar series. Just be patient and look around for something that suits you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The AIC Emergency Committee seeks student member

The AIC Emergency Committee (EC) is interested in having a student member join its ranks. (AIC-CERT falls under the watchful eye of the Emergency Committee.) We “meet” on a monthly basis via a conference call, do “homework” between meetings, and try to meet in person at AIC’s Annual Meeting. Topics that we’ve covered have included deployment and debriefing of AIC-CERT members for national disasters, deployment and debriefing of AIC conservators to Haiti, and expansion of the disaster planning section of the AIC website (still in progress).

All applicants are asked to submit a brief letter of interest and CV (both in electronic format) to the committee co-chairs (me and Andrew Robb,

The EC considers the candidates and forwards the documents for those they chose to the AIC Board for approval. Board votes take place electronically and are usually done within a week. The term would begin at the Annual Meeting, which this year will be held May 31 through June 3. A term is for 4 years.

The deadline for applying is January 31. I’d be happy to field any questions that might arise.

Lori Foley

Monday, January 3, 2011

Deadline for Lightning round at ANAGPIC is Jan 5th

Just a friendly reminder: the abstract submission deadline for the conservation/conservation science lightning round is this Wednesday, January 5, 2011, at 10PM EST.

We would love to hear from students in any of the North American doctoral programs related to aspects of conservation/science/art history/anthropology/library materials. We also want to hear from 4th- or 5th-year interns, post-docs, or other post-graduate fellows who have interesting research projects in progress at the various museums, institutes, etc., that support the preservation and conservation of cultural heritage.

Proposals of no more than 250 words, contact information, and institutional affiliation should be sent to Submissions must be received by 10PM EST on January 5, 2011. Speakers will be notified in February 2011.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

10 Tips for Becoming a Conservator

Tip #5: Think about your education

By this point, you’re probably sure that you want to become a conservator, and should begin to think about your education, if you haven’t already. There are really only two training options in the field of conservation: apprenticeships or graduate school.

Though apprentice training is becoming less prevalent, you can still learn everything you need to know by working with skilled conservators, and supplementing your education with independent reading, coursework, and research. Unfortunately, the time it takes to become a “qualified” conservator will be much longer than a 2-4 year graduate program, and no official certification system currently exists in the U.S. One of the largest benefits of apprenticeships, however, is the flexibility to work part-time, and in any location that you’re able to find a supervisor.

Graduate conservation programs, on the other hand, do require you to attend classes at their location, but only for the first 2-3 years, as the final year is a full-time internship that can take place in another city, or even country. More and more frequently, degrees are required of candidates for fellowships and conservator positions because the employer is familiar with the program curricula and can be confident that you’ve had a thorough education. Having a school affiliation is also a benefit in terms of networking with other alumni, and forming connections with your fellow students.

You have five options for graduate schools in and around the United States for your certificate, MA or MS: UCLA, Queen's University, Buffalo State College, NYU, and Winterthur/University of Delaware. Each school has its own unique attributes, but they’re all regarded as equally capable institutions and will offer an array of opportunities for learning about conservation, and making the transition from student to professional. If you’re interested in studying abroad, there’s a complete list on CoOL of schools in Australia, Asia and Europe. You may have to work out your own funding for programs abroad; in the U.S., all of the schools offer tuition remission and a small stipend for living expenses.

Check out this blog post by Julie Benner about the Textile Conservation Centre in Glasgow.

After choosing one or more schools of interest, the next step is to look into the admission requirements, such as pre-requisite courses, standardized tests and hands-on experience. Then, check out the application procedures and deadlines, so you can get an idea of how many letters of recommendation you’ll need, what types of objects to put into your studio art portfolio, etc. Faculty members are incredibly helpful if you have any questions about preparing for admission, and there are always people available if you’d like to schedule a tour of the facility.

With so few placements for the number of applicants, I probably don’t have to tell you that the admission is very competitive. Just stay positive and focused on what you need to do to make yourself the best possible candidate. In my opinion, it’s a good idea to apply as soon as you meet the minimum requirements because, even if you’re not chosen as a student for that year’s class, you will better understand the application—and maybe even interviewing—process to prepare you for the following year. Faculty members may also be willing to discuss your application with you and make specific recommendations; this type of treatment is so rare in graduate school, but if you’re willing to make the commitment, the conservation programs really do want to help you succeed. Good luck!