Notes on Conservation Lab Design

Walter Henry
Stanford University Libraries
Jan 1992

I. Some general suggestions (rules of thumb):

Lab space is quite different from office space and the area allotted to each staff member must be very much larger than that allotted staff in other library functions. This can be very hard to convey to architects and managers so an site visit to an existing lab may be helpful. When they see just how much space a board shears takes up (73 square feet) and, to take just a few examples, how much table space is necessary to wash a large set of newspapers, flatten oversize maps, or repair a large serial set, you may have an easier time justifying the commitment of space.

Tempting as it may be to build a lab and then hire a conservator to fill it, this is invariably a mistake. Even if an architect has had experience designing physical science labs or artist's studios, the peculiar requirements of conservation labs are such that the close involvement of a conservator, from the very earliest design stages, is essential. What seems a perfectly rational arrangement of space, is frequently utterly impractical. I can speak from personal experience, having seen facilities designed without conservators participation in which certain important treatments can not safely be carried out because the arrangement of fixed furniture, equipment, lighting, and ventilation are inadequate (despite the fact that they *look* all right, have a sink, and a fume hood, etc.). If circumstances are such that construction must begin before a conservator is hired, then you will save a great deal of aggravation, (and probably remodelling costs) by bringing in as a consultant an experienced conservator who has already been through the ordeal a time or two. Normally this should be someone in the specialty the lab is being designed for (eg a book conservator for a library) as the differing specialties can place unique demands on a building.

It will also be wise to talk to a health-safety person early in the design stage. S/he will be able to advise on ventilation, chemical storage (you will probably need two chemical storage cabinets, to allow separation of incompatibles, but the cabinets need not be very large). One note here: many conservators avoid the use of solvents and other chemicals. If your conservator/consultant happens to be one of these S/he may tend naturally to underestimate your need for adequate chemical storage, ventilation and safety equipment. However, a future practitioner may have a different approach to practice. While a lab can be retrofitted with such equipment, you should consider it during the initial design stage. For example, even if you decide that you wont put in a fume hood (because the person the lab is being built for won't need it), make sure that one CAN be installed later (eg that it will be possible to vent it to an adequate height). If you are considering installing a fumigation chamber, you will definitely need to talk to a health-safety person. In most cases, chambers should be located in a room dedicated to the function and separated from work space.

Lighting is critical, and too involved to treat here. It is not sufficient simply to provide "lots" of light; the character of the light (eg spectral distribution, diffuseness,) and the angle/distance from the work surface will have a dramatic effect on how clearly one can see textural, colour, or other phenomenon.

Design for flexibility. Try to avoid fixed furniture as much as is practical and when this is impossible try to situate the fixed furniture where it will interfere as little as possible with the reconfiguration of the space (eg against walls, away from doors). Try to keep as much of the furniture as possible on wheels (locking, heavy duty) and if you can manage it, try to get adjustable-height furniture (especially benches and tables). If you hold to this principle, you buy several labs for the price of one. This even applies to little things: avoid wall mounted telephones; you don't know where you will be working next time it rings (I know one conservator that uses a cordless phone, which seems like a nice solution).

Low bidders can be very expensive. In the early days of our department, we had two large work tables custom built by a low bidder. These tables bowed so badly that it is impossible to use them for flattening!

Lavishly overestimate your need for storage space (for paper, board, adhesives, etc) and provide generous access space for that storage. You need a significant "wasted" footprint around a paper storage cabinet. Also remember that you can't pile paper (or much else) very high.

A conservation lab is also a place that houses library materials, sometimes for quite a long period. It must have proper environmental conditions, provisions for fire suppression and security, earthquake bracing (where necessary), and proper shelving. Like an exhibition area, it has certain intrinsic problems (eg the light that is necessary for work is inappropriate for storage). If you can provide a storage area (eg a sealed room) for library materials that is somewhat separate from the work are, you will probably want to do so.

I have never seen a lab that had enough electrical outlets and they never seem to be in the right place when you need them. Supplementing a generous allocation of floor and wall outlets with ceiling outlets might solve the problem nicely.

A conservation lab is a different sort of space than a small bindery. It is quite possible to do binding work comfortably and effectively in a relatively compact space. In fact many marvelous binderies are tight, cluttered little warrens. This can be quite efficient, since it allows you to work without having to move around much to get your tools, materials etc. In general, however, conservation work tends to require the ability to spread out (drying, flattening, cleaning, etc.). Therefore, while you can get some good ideas from looking at a well designed bindery, a space designed solely as a bindery will rarely make a functional lab.

This last is a personal preference and others may feel otherwise (though many conservators I've talked with have agreed): I find that having an office that is separate from (though contiguous with) the lab enhances the quality of both treatment and "administrative" work. I used to have a desk in a corner of the lab and was plagued by distractions. When I was doing treatment, I would see the pile of paper on my desk and worry about it. Similarly, when I was writing, I would feel guilty about neglecting treatments.

II. Citation

Here are a few citations, that may be helpful.

A. These are things in my files. I can provide a copy if you can't find them anywhere else. Some items may be subject to copyright or other restrictions

Idno: CAIN003
Author: Cains, Antony
Title: Conservation, repair and preservation of books manuscripts in Trinity College Dublin

Idno: GETT003
Author: Gettens, Rutherford J.
Title: Examining Tables in use at the Freer Gallery of Art Keywords:

Idno: KOEN001
Author: Koenigsberg, Jerry
Title: Building a safe laboratory environment

Idno: KOEN002
Author: Koenigsberg, Jerrold
Title: Radial Symmetry: The Latest Trend in Laboratory Design

Idno: NUNE001
Author: Nunemaker, John E.
Title: Planning Laboratories: A Step-by-step Process

Idno: VACC001
Author: Vaccaro, Emerenziana
Title: Restoration Laboratory of the Alfonso Gallo Institute of Book Pathology, Rome

B. The following citations are from the Conservation Lab at Brigham Young University. (I'm saying this in order to credit the excellent work they've done, not to imply that you should you should bother them for the texts, nearly all of which should be relatively easy to obtain).

Author: Alkalaj, Stella
Title: The Chemical Laboratory for Hygiene, Conservation and Restoration of Damaged Written Materials in the National Library 'Cyril and Methodius'-Sofia
Citation: Restaurator 1(1969):87-91

Author: Brandt, Charles A. E.
Title: Restoration in Europe September-December 1975 as Observed by a Canadian Conservator
Citation: Guide of Bookworkers Journal, Vol. XIV No. 3 Spring 1976: 8-25

Author: Bush, Mary
Title: Textile Conservation at Mawangdui
Citation: Museum News, 59 (May/June 1981): 46-47

Author: Cullison, Bonnie Jo
Title: New Conservation Facilities at the Newberry Library
Citation: CAN No. 22

Author: DeCandido, Robert
Title: The Changing Role of an In-House Bindery: The New York Public Library's Custom Binding and Repair Section
Citation: Library Scene 8 (June 1978): 3-5

Author: Giatas, Mary Genett
Title: Librarians Inspired at the American Museum of Natural History
Citation: Library Scene 8 (March 1979): 2-3

Author: Heynen, Jeffrey Added: McConnell, Margaret
Title: Pilot Preservation Statistics Survey 1984-1985
Citation: 1986, 90 pages

Author: Johnson, Doyle
Title: Dust Collection System
Citation: Fine WoodWorking Techniques 2, 1980: 22-24

Author: Luiza de Macedo, Maria
Title: Conservation at Princeton University Library
Citation: CAN No. 21

Author: Makar, Ragai
Title: Conservation of Special Materials in the University of Utah Middle East Library
Citation: MELA Notes, 31, (Winter, 1984): 17-24

Author: New
Title: New Preservation Facilities
Citation: AB Bookman's Weekly, 71, no. 20 (May 16, 1983):2

Author: New
Title: New Conservation Studio for Yale University Library
Citation: Paper Conservation News, Vol. 1, No. 6, (March 1974) :1-4

Author: Reed, Judith
Title: A Nucleus of Guidance, A Center for Preservation
Citation: Library Trends 9 (September 1980): 12-13

Author: Renaldo, Chiara F.
Title: Applause for the Ingenuity of a University's Conservation and Binding Department
Citation: Library Scene 9 (Dec. 1979): 6-7

Author: Schur, Susan E.
Title: Library/Conservation Profile: The Newberry Library
Citation: Technology & Conservation, 2 (1981): 22-31

Author: Stiverson, Gregory A. Added: photos by Paul S. Houston
Title: Preserving a Precious Heritage: Paper Conservation At the Maryland Hall of Records
Citation:

Author: Turner, Decherd
Title: The Self-Destructing Book
Citation: Discovery: Research and Scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin 6:3, 27-31, Spring 1982

Author: Walsh, Timothy
Title: A Typical Archival Conservation Laboratory
Citation: Archives and Manuscripts: Australian Society of Archivists Journal Vol. 7, No. 5 (November, 1979): 268-275

Author: Bulley, Emma
Title: Setting Up and Running a Bindery
Citation: The New Bookbinder, Volume 6, 1986, pp. 65-73

Author: Shores, Franklin
Title: A Clean Room for a Small Conservation Laboratory
Citation: AIC Preprints, Fifteenth Annual Meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1987, pp. 118-123

Author: Stephens, James G., Guild Master
Title: The Texas Book Arts Guild
Citation: Guild of Bookworkers Journal, Vol. XII, No. 1, Fall 1973, pp. 3-5

Author: Schlosser, Mary C.
Title: A Visit to the Morgan Library
Citation: Guild of Bookworkers Journal, Vol. VI, No. 3, Spring 1968, pp. 18-20

Author: Andrews
Title: A Visit to the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale
Citation: Guild of Bookworkers Journal, Vol. III, No. 3, Spring 1965, pp. 29-34

Author: Taylor, W. Thomas
Title: The Iowa Center for the Book
Citation: American Craft, June/July 1987, Vol. 47/No.3, pp. 26 -33

Author: NEDCC
Title: The Northeast Document Conservation Center
Citation: Brochure

Author: Althofer, H.
Title: The Dusseldorf restoration studio
Citation: Studies in Conservation 15 (1970): 223-224

Author: Urbon, B.
Title: The new conservation studios of the museum of the province of Wurttemberg
Citation: Studies in Conservation 15 (1970): 225-230

Author: Thangavelu S.
Title: The Conservation Laboratory of the Tamil Nadu Government Museum, Madras
Citation: Studies in Conservation 17 (1972): 195-201

Author: Al-Naqshbandi, A.
Title: The Iraq Museum laboratory, Baghdad
Citation: Studies in Conservation 18 (1973): 36-42

Author: Flieder, F.
Title: Le Centre de Recherches sur la Conservation des Documents graphiiques, paris
Citation: Studies in Conservation 20 (1975): 20-29

Author: Riederer, Josef
Title: The Rathgen Research Laboratory at Berlin
Citation: Studies in Conservation 21 (1976): 67-73

Author: Organ, R. M.
Title: An adaptable compact modular bench
Citation: Studies in Conservation 32 (1987): 41-46

Author: Schur, Susan E.
Title: Laboratory Profile: The Conservation Services Laboratory of the Detroit Institute of Arts
Citation: Technology & Conservation 3 (1983): 26-40

Author: Watts, Ellen
Title: The Mayer Art Center of the Phillips Exeter Academy: An Engaging Combination of Adaptive Reuse & New Construction
Citation: Technology & Conservation 3 (1982): 20-31

Author: Schur, Susan E.
Title: Conservation Profile: The Northeast Document Conservation Center
Citation: Technology & Conservation 3 (1982): 32-39

Author: Schur, Susan E.
Title: Conservation Profile: The Preservation Office of the Library of Congress
Citation: Technology & Conservation 2 (1982): 26-33

Author: Schur, Susan E.
Title: The Textile Conservation Center, Merrimack Valley Textile Museum
Citation: Technology & Conservation 1(1982); 20-25

Author: Schur, Susan E.
Title: Laboratory Profile: The Anthropology Conservation Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution
Citation: Technology & Conservation 4 (1981): 26-35

Author: Schur, Susan E.
Title: Library/Conservation Profile: The Newberry Library
Citation: Technology & Conservation 2 (1981): 22-31

Author: Roche, Roger Added: Rathbone, Joan; Brandt, Charles A. E.; Byrne, Richard O.
Title: The Atlantic Conservation Centre
Citation: Canadian Conservation Institute Journal, 1(1976): 2 3-26

Author: Dix, Ursus Added: Byers, Barry; Keyser, Barbara; Lawson, Eric
Title: The Pacific Conservation Centre
Citation: Canadian Conservation Institute Journal, 1(1976): 2 6-28

C. One last straggler. I don't know where you can find this (it's an old CIN citation, and is obviously inadequate) (check Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN); there may be a more complete citation. It is included here out of some misguided compulsion

Author: Daifuku, Hiroshi Title: Equipping the laboratory: an example of UNESCO's programme to aid countries in the tropical regions of the world Citation: Equipping the laboratory: an example of UNESCO's programme to aid countries in the tropical regions of the world Abstract: Unesco's plan to set up a technical laboratory in the national museum in bangkok, thailand is outlined and includes a conservation workshop and a photographic workshop. Typical equipment supplied includes microscopes, specialized equipment, x-ray equipment and photographic equipment. Location: ICCROM Keywords: Laboratory, mobile conservation Laboratory, conservation workshop Workshop, equipment Photography, equipment

III.

The document appended below was written during preliminary planning stages of the design of our current facility. It should not be viewed as final, nor as "standards". In fact, many of the design criteria have since been modified, especially those concerning the water system (for example, we have been convinced that PVC faucets are acceptible). Nevertheless, it may give you a place to start from. It represents an effective, but not luxurious work space for two conservators and four technicians.

The actual area in our facility is approximately 2700 square feet. We are fortunate that the space is relatively unencumbered by posts, beams, and other architectural features that would limit the ways in which the space can be reconfigured. Because of this, we are able to reconfigure the space (moving tables, equipment, etc) to accommodate special projects; if the space is less configurable, you will need more of it. Note that the list below does not reflect our total stock of equipment, which has grown rather since this memo was written.

Date: Mon 12-04-1989
To: Phil Leighton
From: Eleanore Stewart and Walter Henry
Subject: Conservation Treatment Facilities

Phil, As near as we can tell, this is what we will need to get going:

Water:

Conservation Repair:

A deep fiberglass utility sink with a swivel faucet and an ordinary 20 gallon water heater.

Conservation Lab Option 1:

6' X 4 ' X 6" (I.D.) sink with square corners, constructed of 14 gauge #315 stainless steel, the bottoms creased to a 1.5" #316 stainless steel drain. There should be an (approximately) 8 inch deck at one of the short sides (the deck will be located at the wall) and the drain should be located in the center of the short side opposite the deck. There should be no convex protrusions on the bottom. There should be a 2.5" standpipe, also of #316 stainless steel. The work surface (ie the floor of the basin) should be 38" high.

Conservation Lab Option 2:

4' X 2 ' X 6" (I.D.) sink with square corners, constructed of #315 stainless steel, of a stiffness to provide rigidity equivalent to option 1 above. The drain, constructed of #316 stainless steel, should be located in a corner, not in the center of the basin. There should be no creasing and no convex protrusions on the bottom. There should be a 2.5" standpipe, also of #316 stainless steel.

Fixtures: The faucet and head should be a tin-lined gooseneck with a tubing-attachment unit (available from T&S Brass Co., for approximately $135)..

An eyewash station should be installed in the deck.

Water quality: There should be a three component filtration system, with the preliminary column filtering gross particulates (1-5 micron), the second (activated charcoal) removing organics, and the final column removing fine particulates (0.2 microns). Ideally this should feed into a deionization unit capable of providing at least 1 gal/minute and then into a recalcification column. A means of drawing off DI water prior to the recalcification column should be provided. The filters and DI unit should be situated on the wall above the deck.

Water Heater: Heating may be provided by an ordinary 20 gallon, glass lined water heater, although a larger capacity would be desirable. It must be capable of providing a water temperature of 150°F and all of the piping should be of plastic (normally polypropylene) capable of withstanding this temperature. If a deionization unit is included in the configuration, then the piping and fittings for the heater should be obtained from the DI unit supplier; all piping and fittings coming into and out of the heater should be of this same material. The water heater should be situated beneath the sink.

Lighting: Colour-balanced fluorescent lighting (e.g. Verteray, Verilux) sufficient to provide 100 footcandles at the work surface (37" above floor).

Electrical Power: It is likely that 1 220 volt line will be required at sometime during the period of occupation. However, it is not necessary that this line be available at the outset.

There should be several wallboard sockets sufficient for the wire stitcher, suction table, photo lights, stamping press, mylar welder, Handibind and computers. In addition, there should be a power bar along each wall at a height of 39" above the floor capable of handling several small electrical tools simultaneously. There should be two hanging ceiling outlets in each area.

Security: The Conservation Lab needs to be alarmed and the alarms tied into the Campus Police system.

Administrative Space -- Conservation Treatment

Administrative space for 2 people (Head of Conservation Treatment and Assistant Conservator).

Total Area

300 sq ft

Furniture

216

Shelving, etc.

84

 

Number

Unit Area
including surround

Total Area

Special
Considerations

Desks

2

40

80

 

Table

1

40

40

2 chairs for guest seating.

Telephones

2

NA

NA

1 Telephone at each desk.
Separate Numbers.
1 Answering machine.

Computers
1 Printer
1 Table
Network Connection

1

40

40

Adequate room for at least 2 people to sit at computer simultaneously.

File Cabinets
4-Drawer Cabinets

7

8

56

OK to cluster them together.

 

Linear feet

 

 

 

Bookshelves

100

 

Treatment Space

Repair Unit

Total Footprint
(not including egress)

560

Individual Work Area

240

Shared Work Area

320

 

Individual Work Area

Total Footprint

60

Number of technicians

4

 

Footprint

Access

Total
Footprint

Special
Considerations

Work Bench and chairs

18 sq ft

24 sq ft

42 sq ft

 

Book trucks

3 sq ft

3 sq ft

6 sq ft

 

Garbage Can

2 sq ft

0 sq ft

2 sq ft

 

Shelving

5

5

10

Technicians should be arranged in pairs.
Requires access to electrical power

Shared Work Area

Total Footprint

320

Table

32

23

55

 

Wire Stitcher

9

9

18

 

Handi-Bind Machine

7

7

14

 

Utility Sink

8

15

23

 

Shelving

 

Number
of
Units

Dimensions

Total
Area

Shelving for Incoming Books

Shelving Area:

24 shelves

18 x 30

90 sq ft

Footprint

5 units

18 x 30

19 sq ft

Access

 

 

38 sq ft

Total Footprint

 

 

57 sq ft

Shelving for Supplies

Shelving area

9 shelves

18 x 60

68 sq ft

Footprint

3 units

18 x 60

23 sq ft

Access

 

 

45 sq ft

Total Footprint

 

 

68 sq ft

Special Considerations

Some of the supply shelving should do double duty as counter space.

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

Cloth Storage
Unit 1: Rolling

15

15

30

 

Cloth Storage
Unit 2: Built-in

8

15

23

 

Combination Press

12

10

22

The Combination Press is mobile. Requires access on all 4 sides.

Standing Press

2 sq ft

8 sq ft

10 sq ft

Standing Press is very heavy.

Telephone

NA

NA

NA

 

Conservation Lab

Total Footprint (not including egress)

837 sq ft.

Photography area

Total Footprint including surround

80

Equipment

Camera Stand
2 Standing Light Stands
Small refrigerator (quarter-size)

Special Considerations

Unblocked space 12 feet to left and right of camera stand (for lights). Unblocked space 6 feet in front of camera stand (for operator and lights). Must be able to darken room. Area must not be in region of traffic flow. Space may be used for other functions when not in use.

Unsecured Storage

Total Footprint including access

227 sq ft

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

2 Map cases

14 sq ft

16 sq ft

30 sq ft

2 Map cases may be stacked.

1 Oversize map case

16 sq ft

16 sq ft

32 sq ft

 

Shelving

 

Number
of
Units

Dimensions

Total
Area

Deep shelving

Shelving Area

11 shelves

36 X 42

115 sq ft

Footprint

2 units

36 x 42

21 sq ft

Access

 

 

21 sq ft

Total Footprint

 

 

42 sq ft

Midsized open shelving and closed cabinets

Open Shelving

Shelving Area

15 shelves

18 x 30

56 sq ft

Footprint

3 units

18 x 30

12 sq ft

Closed Shelving

Shelving Area

6 shelves

18 x 60

44 sq ft

Footprint

2 units

18 x 60

15 sq ft

 

Access

 

 

40 sq ft

Total Footprint

 

 

55 sq ft

Special Considerations

At least 2 of the shelving units must double as counter space.

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

Board Storage Table

32 sq ft

24 sq ft

56 sq ft

Must be in secured area. Part of this allocation is used for collections materials. The Remainder is for materials and supplies used in treatment.

Secured Storage

Total Footprint

18

 

Footprint

Access

Total
Footprint

Special
Considerations

1 Locked Cabinet

6 sq ft

12 sq ft

18

Must be in secured area.

Wet Treatment Area

Total Footprint

124 sq ft

Special Considerations

Must be contiguous to both Work Benches.

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

Sink, filtration equipment, water heater

24 sq ft

72 sq ft

96 sq ft

Sink must be accessible from 3 sides.

Drying rack

13 sq ft

15 sq ft

28 sq ft

Drying rack is mobile.

Tray Storage

NA

 

 

Tray storage must be near sink (may be beneath sink).

Work benches

Total Footprint

378

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

Work bench 1 and 2:

25 sq ft

80 sq ft

210 sq ft

Requires access to electrical power. Must be accessible from 4 sides. Tables are heavy. (approx. 200 lbs).

Work bench 3

24 sq ft

80 sq ft

104 sq ft

Flattening Table

24 sq ft

40 sq ft

64 sq ft

Presses

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

1 stamping press on table
1 type case
1 chair

6 sq ft

12 sq ft

18 sq ft

Requires electrical power.

Standing Press

2 sq ft

8 sq ft

10 sq ft

Very heavy.

Miscellaneous

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

Telephone

NA

NA

NA

 

Housing Lab

Total Footprint (not including egress)

435

 

Footprint

Access

Total Footprint

Special Considerations

Polyweld Machine, on table

24 sq ft

80 sq ft

104 sq ft

Polyweld machine requires electrical power and access from all four sides. Machine is fairly heavy.

Encapsulating Table

32 sq ft

60 sq ft

92 sq ft

Encapsulating Table should have access from at least 3 sides.

Large Rolling Table

24 sq ft

96 sq ft

120 sq ft

 

Small Rolling Table

6 sq ft

6 sq ft

12 sq ft

 

Board Shear

73 sq ft

 

 

Board Shear is very heavy (approx. 1500 lbs)

Phase Box Creaser

10

24

34

 

Summary

Function

Total Footprint

Administrative Space

Conservation Treatment

300 sq ft

Treatment Space

Repair Unit

560 (not including egress)

Conservation Lab

837 (not including egress)

Housing Lab

435 (not including egress)

Total Space

2132 sq ft (not including egress)

The Conservation Lab needs to be alarmed and the alarms tied into the Campus Police system.

Administrative Space--Conservation Treatment

Administrative space for 2 people (Head of Conservation Treatment and Assistant Conservator).

Furniture

216

Shelving, etc.

84

Total Area

300 sq ft

Item

Number

Unit Area including surround

Total Area

Desks

2

40

80

Table

1

 

40

Function

Square Footage

Walled

Administrative space

300

Yes

Repair Unit

1,000

 

Lab (secure)

1,200

Yes

Storage

300

Yes

Total Space

2,800 square feet*

 

*(location of storage is negotiable -- at least100 sq ft. needs to be located in secure Lab area, 100 in Repair area, and the remaining 100 could be remote and not secure)


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