Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Track 7/23a: Bon Iver: "Flume"  

Tuesday began with a far too quick farewell to my mother as I needed to travel to King’s Cross to meet my classmates, and she needed to finish getting ready for her ride to the airport as she had a return flight to New York. Goodbye mum, goodbye Parsons Green (but good riddance busybody B&B woman!)…
Farewell quaint Parsons Green butcher: Parson's Nose
While the weasel had already made it back to my residence, I still had the large box that we paid for that I planned to construct into a smaller box, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. Thus, along with what belongings I still had with me, I rode the tube halfway across London with a gigantic piece of cardboard. Our class meeting this morning was back at the British Library, and since they have a massive area for checking items (that was completely empty save 2 umbrellas the last time we were there) I planned to leave the cardboard checked there, and stash the rest of my things in one of the storage lockers before heading off to our appointment. The guard at the doorway decided to make trouble however, and wouldn’t let me pass with my cardboard. He insisted it needed to fit in the metal size bin next to the entrance, and while he consented that if I were able to roll it that it would easily fit inside, he just laughed and challenged me to roll it up. JERK. Keep in mind, they have an area to keep oversize luggage there as well, and while the surface was as big as a poster, it was just flat cardboard! Obviously this incident had me quite livid; I apparently just lucked into getting a door guard who wanted to feel important today. I left the cardboard outside behind the size contraption and gave the box tyrant a nasty glare and headed in, past the completely barren item check area.

Our visit today was at the British Library conservation studios in the Centre for Conservation. Our cameras were collected upon entrance, but luckily Dr. Welsh was allowed to take some shots of us so we have a few images. The studios sit in the back of the British library structure, in purpose-built construction for conservation activities where they moved in March 2007. The conservators worked with the architect to design the space specifically for treating library materials. As a result, the roof was specially built with north facing light, the air circulation is all at ground level, there are no pipes to present problems, and the wet area required with sinks and equipment to perform liquid deacidification techniques is sectioned off along the west wall away from the other work areas. There are also extra security measures in the studio as well since many of the library's valuable treasures require work as well as general collection items and must be protected.
A staff of 35 conservationists work here in teams. 3,250 hours are spent on general running repairs alone, but as there are constantly special concerns, anything that will require about 10 or more hours requires a consultation. The staff meets with the curators of a given collection regarding the work that needs to be done in order to prioritize the work and generate an estimate of the time and cost of the repair or treatment. A formal bid is created and several options are presented for various levels of treatment that could be offered with the professional recommendation of the conservators. Ultimately, the curators will make decision regarding what course of treatment to choose from the options presented as they have specialized knowledge of the relative significance of each item. In many cases, extensive work is not carried out and unless the item is particularly rare and valuable it may not warrant more than having a phase box crafted to house it. The idea is to bring materials to a functional state while balancing the potential costs for conservation. (Japanese tissue is used to repair pages and this costs £6-7 a sheet alone, so this is an example of why budget must be kept in mind) We had a look at the projects our guide was currently working on with his team and then we proceeded on to the studio where the gold embossing takes place. The process of gold finishing requires a great deal of skill and only 3 people on staff are able to do it (even when the conservation staff had 60 conservators in a better economic climate, only 4 could do the finishing) and it takes a significant amount of time and practice to have a knack for it. Gold foil is used on cloth bindings and it is difficult to apply, but the gold leaf is used for leather and this is even more challenging as it is fragile and crumbles easily. The process of setting and heating the type and application was demonstrated and we passed around some gold leaf. I absolutely love the hands-on nature of this work and if time, location and money were no object I would love to learn the gold finishing myself. Their work is really fascinating, and there's so much to it which you can discover by reading here and viewing here.
Upon exiting the British Library I was shocked to find my box had not disappeared, and this was especially fortunate as it happened to start pouring rain on our way back to the tube station (this is really the first time it actually rained on this trip since a bit of drizzle on arrival day and a few drops when we set off for Oxford although I wasted valuable suitcase space for two rain jackets and an umbrella) so the cardboard was used as a giant pedestrian-injuring hat I shielded myself with. I made a detour to the dorm to get rid of all the stuff I had with me and be sure I had all of my questions in order for the afternoon appointment I'd scheduled for myself at what will be the subject of my research paper for this course: ..... drum roll....

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