Tuesday, 21 February 2012

What I won't be doing. . .

Since I have begun my Masters of Library and Information Studies degree, with a focus in Archival studies, I have frequently been asked:

"So, what exactly is it that you are going to do?"

Tough question. I'm not going to answer it here today. I would need to be in a far more rant-y mood to do it justice. Instead, I am going to show y'all something that I will not be doing: Conservation.

Conservators, within the context of document and book preservation, work with records that are in danger of decaying entirely and becoming lost to us. Their aim is to nullify or at least slow that rate of decay. They will do things like mend tears, treat pages to make them less acidic, or rebind a material in a less harmful format. Conservators frequently have a specialized background in conservation, as well as some knowledge of chemistry and laboratory procedures. Archivists do not have any of this knowledge, and therefore tend to outsource their conservation work to these professionals.

The rule of thumb for conservators, and for archivists, is "if it can't be reversed, don't attempt it". For Archivists, this is a hard and fast rule, for conservationists, who have more knowledge of what can be done to preserve a work, this is a little foggier.

Either way, the conservator must justify any changes they are making, weighing the benefits of preventing further damage to the record against altering the nature of that original record itself. An interesting example of this can be seen in the restoration of Thomas Jefferson's bible, a text which consists of re-ordered and select clippings the man himself put together in order to re-tell the story of Christ's life and teachings chronologically, and without supernatural elements. 

The articles following recount this conservation project: 

Finally, pictures of the pages of the bible were taken, and a facsimile was made: http://www.smithsonianstore.com/books-media/historical-books/the-jefferson-bible-10511.html 

1 comment:

  1. Dude, now I really want to know what you will end up doing!!