British Library Conservation Centre

The British Library Centre for Conservation opened in 2007.  It employs five teams of conservators for their St Pancras building, though they do have room for six teams.  They have studios on the 6th floor of the main building that mainly deal with paper, like maps.  They also have stamp specialists since the British Library has a significant stamp collection.  The conservators do not restore materials.  Instead, they attempt to stabilize the materials using minimal intervention.  They aim for re-treatable methods rather than reversible since some procedures, such as cleaning, cannot or will not be reversed.  The adhesives they use can be removed, and they keep detailed records and photographs of the conservation process.  They work closely with the curators who specify which items need to be conserved immediately.  They also do digital preservation as part of their work.

Visiting the British Library Centre for Conservation was one of the highlights of the month.  I have been in a number of conservation studios of varying sizes, and this was the largest I have ever seen.  It was amazing to have the conservators actually demonstrating how they conserve delicate and unusual items such as palm leaves.  I had also never seen a demonstration on applying gold leaf before.  I had toyed with the idea of working in conservation before, and after visiting the studio at the British Library, I think that I will endeavor to intern in a preservation or conservation studio as part of my degree.  All of the conservators we spoke with were wonderful and took their time to both show and describe what they were doing.

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