A Fork in the Road

The Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Library Project is a 3.5 year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. When Jenny Jarvis (Project Director and Chief Conservator) arrived in Derry she had a space for a workshop and a budget to get a conservation lab up and running. After lots of hard work and the assembly of a fantastic team the project has just entered its third year.

With roughly 5,600 books in the collection and only 3.5 years to conserve everything a well designed conservation plan had to be put in place, otherwise each conservator would be responsible for treating some 50 items per month to make it through the lot.

In order to get through such a large amount of work the conservation treatment path branches off in two directions; stabilizing work or full treatment. The majority of the books fall under the stabilization category, this treatment includes any of the following actions; melinex dust jackets, phase boxes, surface-cleaning, securing loose bits, tying up boards, paper repair or any other small quick fixes.

Box of books in need of stabilizing work

Each week someone from the team heads over to the University of Ulster Magee Library to sort through the books and bring back a new box of items in need of stabilization.  Armed with a spreadsheet listing the items and simple instructions the team works through the books in the box until all are completed and everything is ready to return to cold storage so they can start the process all over again.

I spent the majority of my first week here going through this process, making boxes, doing paper repairs, and sticking down bits to prevent further damage. While this kind of remedial conservation work might not be as interesting as more interventive treatment it is an important part of the conservation process for this collection and will undoubtedly provide needed information about the general condition of the collection.

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