The conservation studio cares for the collections by protecting material and making it available for future generations. The conservators are specialised in book and paper conservation, a discipline which combines history, science, ethics and practical skills.
Conservation tends to fall into two areas; preservation and intervention.
Preservation is the preventive measures taken to control the environment, storage, handling and display. The temperature, relative humidity, pests and light are monitored and assessed for potential risk to the historic material. Results from condition surveys inform our level of access to particular collections and inform our programme for interventive work.
Interventive conservation is the treatment of an individual item in order to stabilise or consolidate. All these treatments are documented, minimally invasive and reversible.
St. Patrick's College,
Maynooth, Co. Kildare.
Paper is a flexible support made up of cellulose fibres. These fibres can be found in all plant matter, including cotton, hemp, straw and wood. Early European papers were handmade from recycled textiles which would be gathered and sorted by their quality. In the C19th, rag supplies could not keep up with demand so woodpulp was introduced as a much more plentiful source material. From a conservation perspective, paper is vulnerable to three main agents of deterioration: physical damage, chemical deterioration and biological attack.
The ubiquitous and familiar book is a complex three-dimensional object. It was designed to be functional, portable and robust. The structure and style of bindings inform us of the priorities and limitations of the culture in which they were created as much as the handwritten or printed content. As conservators, understanding the nuances of these structures is crucial to informing access, storage and creating an appropriate interventive treatment plan.