What's Happening in the Preservation Lab?

Submitted by libbairdca on
Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections
Pres Lab pic.jpg

There are lots of labs on campus.  Did you know there is one in Mills Library where books, archival documents, posters, maps and photographs receive conservation treatment?

The Preservation Lab, part of The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections is staffed by Audrie Schell, a book conservator with a degree in Anthropology and Sociology and a diploma in Museum Studies.    Audrie is one of only a handful of book conservators in Canada and to develop her specialty she apprenticed for 3 years with Belgian master binder Hubert Leurs.  Audrie did internships at the National Museum of Science and Nature and the Ottawa Municipal Archives, and also worked at the National Archives of Canada before joining McMaster.

Audrie’s knowledge and special skills ensure the maintenance of our rare collections through everyday activities such as environmental monitoring, collection surveys, condition reporting, stabilization and the conservation treatment of individual items.

Audrie uses her unique expertise to examine the condition of rare books to determine whether they can withstand the rigors of digitization.   Most recently  she repaired  Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1846).  Other recent projects include the humidification, flattening and housing of three very tightly curled panoramic photographs, the repair of several very deteriorated letters dated from the 1690’s, dismantling the Penang Daily News from an inappropriate binding and housing it in an archival box, and repairs to a number of books most notably Primitive History, From the Creation to Cadmus (1789) and Sense and Sensibility (1894).

Audrie says, “Book conservation requires visual skills – you need to be observant, have an eye for detail, be patient and have the ability to think three dimensionally, to see how the book will act, react to the treatment methodology and materials used to repair the book.  One must know the chemical makeup of materials and also a knowledge of the different book structures.” Some of the special tools she uses are bone folders, suction table,  a finishing stove, backing press, board shears, backing hammer, scalpels and band nippers.  Many of the methods and materials used in rare book repair remain unchanged over the centuries and still require the use of hide glues, leather and sewing by hand. View some pictures from the Preservation Lab on our Flickr site.

For more information about the Preservation Lab, please contact Audrie Schell.

by Bev Bayzat