Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, visible from the college quadrangle, September 30, 2018. Image courtesy of William Bennett.

Field Books Go to Oxford!

See how our conservation staff are sharing treatment ideas with colleagues across the world.

At the beginning of October, Senior Conservator Nora Lockshin and I were delighted to attend a conference in Oxford, England. Put on by the Book and Paper Specialty Group of the Institute of Conservation (Icon), the United Kingdom's professional association for the cultural heritage sector, the conference featured two days of fascinating talks with thought-provoking themes and innovative solutions to tricky conservation questions. It also included tours of conservation and collections spaces scattered across Oxford's academic institutions.

 View from the grounds of a cathedral. A few people wander around the lawn outside of the structure.

After the successful debut of our poster and presentation, which focused on treatment of Smithsonian field books, at the American Institute for Conservation's (AIC) annual meeting in Houston last May, Nora saw that the Icon conference had a theme that related to our efforts and submitted a reworked version of our poster. Where we focused primarily on how materiality influenced use and treatment of field books at AIC's "Material Matters" conference, our poster for Icon developed on the field books' status as ancillary collections to tie into the theme “Unexpected fame: Conservation approaches to the preparatory object.” This poster demonstrated that field books and other, similar collections can have life beyond their original, intended use, and may inform our understanding of related items.

The presentations covered a variety of topics, approaches, and objects, many of which provided ideas that will inform my work on field books and other Archives collections moving forward, including some beautiful in-situ conservation work on the bindings of books. If you’d like to see more specifics about the different talks at the conference, you can check out my Twitter Moment—I tweeted along with the presenters!

A man stands next to a poster indoors.

In all, Icon's fantastic Book and Paper Group conference was a wonderful opportunity to see how colleagues from across the world made, and continue to make, measured and informed decisions to safeguard our cultural heritage. I am continually astounded by the passion and expertise evinced by conservators and preservation professionals across the globe!

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