Last week Jenny and I went on a little field trip to Benburb Priory, a Servite Priory located in East Tyrone. I have never been to a priory and to be honest was not sure what exactly went on at one. This particular one seems to be focused on bringing people together to discuss complex issues which affect their lives.
Jenny and I were not there to sort out any of our personal problems, but we did come to help some of the staff to learn proper handling skills for their library. The priory is in the process of applying for Heritage Lottery Funding (the same group who funds the Derry and Raphoe project). It is an exciting prospect and one that requires lots of planning and organizing on their part.
They are currently working through their collection, giving each book a shelf mark and recording the books bibliographical information. As each book is being handled in this process Jenny thought it would be good to come and give them some basic handling information along with lots of other information on storage, environmental monitoring and the basic structure of the book. It was hard for us to hold back and not give them too much information. They have quite a small set-up and we did not want to give them too much information too quickly.
After a couple of hours of instruction the staff seemed to be really enlightened on a number of topics. They were keen to start monitoring their storage environment, do some basic brush cleaning and start making notations on the general condition of the books as they recorded their information. All in all it was a really interesting and informative visit for all of us and as usual it proved that people are really interested in conservation, they just need to be given the chance to see what conservators do.