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Re: [BKARTS] . Conservation/restoration (How to get in to)

I'd like to thank Peter for sharing his background and ideas on
getting into the field of Book Conservation/restoration.  I'll take a
moment to share my ideas also, just my personal opinions.

I received my library degree in 1990, planning to work as a reference
librarian at the academic level.  Due to an odd series of
circumstances I ended up at North Bennet Street School studying
bookbinding in 1991, planning to be a preservation administrator, or
"just" to practice bookwork as a part of my life while I carried on
as a reference librarian after graduation.

I began to realize there was no end to both the hand-skill needs  and
the intellectual rigor needs of book conservation.  I liked that a
lot.  I made all the time/money/mobility sacrifices Peter discusses
to follow the conservation "path".   I have moved many times since I
graduated, and taken many grant-funded temporary jobs, and
consistently spent more than I should have on workshops, tools, books
and conferences!  But, no regrets.

 I teach at the University of Texas  Preservation/Conservation
Studies Program, here in Austin TX, and I think its a great program
for those who want to take a library/archives collection care
approach. But  I would like to point out that the other conservation
programs also work with those who are interested in Book
Conservation.  While they do not offer a library degree along with a
conservation degree, they have graduated book conservators in the
past and I hope they will continue to do so in the future.  The field
would not be well served by only one training program.  For info on
the other conservation programs, see the training/education  page on
the AIC website.  There are also other excellent  book education
programs, like North Bennet Street , and the U of Iowa Technology of
the Book program, as well as lots of MFA book arts programs out
there.   I'm sure there are other opportunities I have not mentioned!
All differ in their approach, and many could be usefully worked into
a conservation education.

That said, it does help to have a library degree, though as Peter
sagely noted, not the way you'd expect.  I believe Paul Banks, who
started the PCS program that moved to Texas 10 years ago thought that
to be on equal footing with colleagues in a library/archives, you
needed the same entry level degree they have.  I think he had a
point.   Also,  if you consider yourself a library.archives
collection conservator, a library degree can help ground you in the
ever-changing trends in managing these collections, especially their
push to digitize materials and to preserve  perishing  non-paperbased

I think the problem with developing bench skills with "just" a
conservation program training, is the real lack of both good
technician jobs and especially the lack of  Assistant Conservator
jobs.  Many times there is a conservator and a one technician or more
in the lab.  Thus a boatload of crucial administrative duties are
often unloaded on the new conservator, and un-interrupted bench time
is hard to find from there on out.  To take bench skills seriously as
they must be taken, I think its good to go into the "program" if you
choose to, with as much hand-skill experience as you can get, then
try to take jobs that keep you out of major administration for
awhile.  Grant-funded projects did that for me, thought there are
never enough of them and they are temporary and may not pay as well.

I think a great way to see if this field is the right fit, is to
volunteer in a  conservation lab and bindery (harder to volunteer in
a bindery, since they often can't afford the time to train you unless
you can be counted on to produce!) Read the  conservation job
announcements, talk to private and institutional conservators, and
see if you like what you read and hear.  I also think reading some
conservation theory is an excellent idea. Subscribe to the
Conservation Distlist, and try classes at the Rare Book School. .
Its a pretty great field, though not without its share of angst!

Consuela Metzger
Lecturer - Book Conservation
The University of Texas at Austin
School of Information
The Preservation/Conservation Studies Program
1 University Station D7000
Austin, TX 78712-1276
(512) 471-8293
(512) 471-8285 (fax)

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