The world is a very small place

16 08 2008

Some of you may recall that a few days before I started this job, I posted the eulogy of Craigen Bowen, conservator and climber, because it was inspiring.  Today, as I was looking through some of the library’s archives that were uncovered yesterday, I found a folder titled “Conservation”.  In that folder were correspondence, treatment proposals and treatment reports regarding artwork in the AAC’s collection.  “My” collection.  And those documents were all signed by Craigen.

Now all I’ve got to do is find the artwork. More later – the demolition crew is here to begin work on the new rare books room.  I want to swing a sledgehammer.





Tag – We Are Not It

26 12 2007

I’ve been searching for other paper conservation blogs. I’ve Googled and Asked. I’ve looked on Technorati, Digg, Del.icio.us. I’ve varied my search terms. I’ve decided…Houston, we have a problem.

“Paper conservation” brings us mostly to discussions about saving trees, and a very interesting blog about a conservation experience in the Antarctic. “Paper conservator” might get you here, and to a nicely-done British book conservator blog-he tells me he is now at the Huntington- Broken Books, or Mr. Paper’s look into the paper industry in it’s many permutations, including a bunch of stuff on paper dresses, and to a blog by a newly hired paper conservator in Australia. “Art conservation” – not much except conservator’s private practice websites, training programs, the Distlist and other publications, and vendors – no blogs that I’ve yet found. “Preservation” is mostly buildings, unless you add the word “Library”. “Book conservation” brings you to the ubiquitous Future of the Book. Frustratingly, many feed search results provide articles about political conservatives instead of conservators. “Art restoration” is mostly articles written by non-conservators.

Bottom line is that any combination of search terms only yields a handful of relevant results, and anyone looking for a blog talking about our profession has to rummage like the most persistent flea-market hound. We’ve got to do better than this.

So, shall we revisit the ever-evolving conversation about what is that we should be called? What search terms, keywords and tags should we be promoting? How can we make sure that we get found?

My question to you: how do you describe your profession to a stranger, when you have about 5 seconds to get it across? Do you say “I’m a conservator”? The response to that, it seems, is “…like you save the environment?” I tend to say “I fix art and historic documents”, and leave the word “conservator for later in the conversation. That don’t seem right, PR-wise, but it communicates the essentials quickly. It does leave something to be desired in expressing the intricacy, extensive training and education, the professionalism required.

Ideas, anyone?





Water Conservation in Paper Labs

14 12 2007

I spent a good part of this week wrist-deep in tubs of water. Just my wrists and hands, mind you, although when the water was warm I was tempted to climb in with the print I was attempting to remove from it’s backing board. Bending over a tub while removing mat fragments from the surface of another print, I had time to think about water.

It’s a topic I come to often – one with a hefty portion of guilt attached. I’m one of those people who makes sure to turn off the tap while I brush my teeth. If I leave a glass of water sitting overnight, I toss it on a plant instead of down the drain. I’m careful about our water-using appliances at home. I have a garden made up of agave, sage, and yucca, and I water my veggies sparingly – poor things. I pay attention to the dwindling resources and water fights in this country and others. I feel pretty sure the next world war, or our very own civil war, won’t be over oil, but potable water.

So when it comes time to pour gallons of water down the drain every work week just to make pieces of paper a bit more flexible, a bit less brown, I flinch. And I wonder how to reconcile the actions of my career with the needs of the global community, just as I do at home.

I don’t have any answers yet, but I plan to talk about this fairly often on this blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Eventually, I’d like to form some sort of discussion group, but if all that happens is that I get some people thinking, that’ll be good too. There’s a lot to discuss. I have ideas…

Here are some:

  • Re-examine paper washing research through the lens of water efficiency. For example, is blotter washing effective enough, even when the media could handle immersion? Would the water savings offset the water needed to rinse or recycle blotter? (And how much paper/blotter recycling happens in paper labs, anyways?). What about shallow, frequently changed baths vs. deeper, longer ones?
  • Start measuring exactly how much water is used during the course of treatment, to increase water use awareness.
  • Measure the environmental impact of what we pour down the drain
  • Explore the possibility of instituting gray water recycling and installation of water-saving devices, especially in all those new green-built facilities.

So, please, let me know your ideas!





Science Fiction and Conservation

7 12 2007

Every once in a while I come across an article that sends me into my own little sci-fi world where I have all the world and time to tinker with new technologies- along with a miraculously improved understanding of chemistry and physics. I daydream about various ways nanotech can change our work (the way we do it and the things we will have to work on). There’s the fantasy of setting loose a bunch of nanobots to eat stubborn adhesive. I’m not really a trekkie, but I do like the idea of using the Replicator to make a whole new version of whatever burnt, crispy document I might have on hand. And what are we going to do, exactly, about bio-lumenescent art, e-inks, and all the new forms of paper, drawing and writing implements that will be coming our way?

The Tate, of course, does an inspiring job of confronting conservation of time-based and other strangely-behaved media. That’s a whole other conversation.

What I really want to talk about is this:

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1332

Imagine my happiness to find a website devoted to science fiction made real!

The article cited above discusses implantation of “fluorescent polymer microbeads ” to create a diagnostic tattoo in human skin. It also mentions RFID ink, to be used for tagging animals. Why can we not use these things? Invisible RFID ink has its’ obvious applications for marking and retrieving things, so I’m not going to go very far discussing it because I’m sure someone, somewhere, is on it. If it can be used to find a soldier wandering in the desert, surely it can be used to find a book in a library, right?

But microbead implants? Tattoos for paper! What could we detect in paper? Could they be inserted into paper and then withdrawn as needed? If yes, then maybe they could indicate the presence or absence of all kinds of stuff when we treat, or contemplate treating, paper. Lignin, pH, solvents, stain reduction agents? Changes in pigment due to treatment? What would it do to paper over time? Nothing? Horrible unforeseen consequences?

Oh, if I only had a lab. And a bigger brain.

Ironically enough, looking at the original Texas A&M article, I noted this:

“This invention is protected under U.S. Patent No. 6,485,703 issued November 26, 2002. The A&M System Technology Licensing Office is currently seeking one or more industrial partners to facilitate commercialization of the procedure. For more information about licensing this technology, please contact Page Heller at p-heller@tamu.edu or 979-847-8682. Please reference TAMUS Project #1240.”

The contact person’s last name is Heller. Mine too. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. doodoo doodoo doodoo doodoo…








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