Conservator of Books and Graphic Documents
Institut National du Patrimoine (INP), Paris
As a current student at the Institut National du Patrimoine in Paris, specializing in Conservation and Restoration of Books and Graphic Documents (5 year course), I had the opportunity to undertake a six-month internship as part of my fourth year training, at the Bodleian Libraries from 1 February to 17 July 2016.
I was welcomed at the Bodleian Library by a warm and competent team in their new, well-equipped workshop at the Weston Library, in the historic centre of Oxford. The goal was three-fold: to adapt to working in a new environment; to integrate into the team; and to be actively involved in conservation activities across this public institution.
From left to right:
MS Arab. g. 7 (r); Ballam Collection: Games: 1810s (4); MS. Turk. d. 2
Supervised by Marinita Stiglitz (Head of Paper Conservation) I worked on archival material, original hand-drawings by Tolkien, a scroll from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Arabic scrolls, Chinese posters…the list goes on.
The internship at the Bodleian allowed me to work on Oriental collections, which I had not previously had the chance to experience – my greatest opportunity to learn came through a study focused on Chinese bookbinding supervised by Robert Minte (Senior Paper Conservator) which was a real eye-opening experience, and a perfect alliance between the Books and Graphic Art conservation specialties.
Sinica 2503, Chinese book from the last quarter of the 16th century, Bodleian Library, Oxford (England),
From left to right: before and after conservation.
One of the projects was to conserve a rare edition of a Chinese medical book (Sinica 2503), rebound in a western binding. It was necessary to remove the western binding, which was causing excessive tension on the spine during opening, resulting in damage to the paper, and, after repairing and extending the pages one by one, to rebind the whole manuscript using a traditional Chinese technique called “Jade Set in Gold” by inserting Chinese paper between every “double leaf” to strengthen the fragile text block. This process has facilitated any future handling of the manuscript to take place without further risk of deterioration.
From a personal point of view, as a French and therefore foreign intern, the internship allowed me to practice my English skills and to create precious contacts and links abroad.
Professionally speaking, this experience allowed me to exchange knowledge on conservation and to develop my knowledge of new tools and materials. It was also an immersion into the professional field for a sustained a period of time, thus making it possible to complete numerous projects, and at the same time, enhancing and developing professional skills by integrating with a close team. The experience was rewarding on all levels, both personally and professionally.
My fifth and last year at the INP is dedicated to a thesis, for which I have decided to work on a Persian manuscript: an anthology of the poems of Hâfez (the 14th century Persian poet), almost certainly from the 16th century, preserved at the University Library of Montpellier, France (shelfmark H201) whose main problem is caused by the oxidation of verdigris perforating the paper. My work on this manuscript will encompass both a descriptive, technical and scientific study of the book, as well as its crucial conservation.