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From the looks of this blog, you’d think I was on vacation

May 10, 2008

So I think I better write at least one entry on what it is I’m doing over here in England–what actually occupies most of my time.

Yesterday, for example, began at about 6:30. I find that I’m not very productive schoolwork-wise once the evening comes, so I’m trying to re-program myself to being more productive in the mornings. I try to spend most of my workshop time (9-5 weekdays) working on my conservation projects, though sometimes other deadlines creep in and take me away from the bench. Hence the trying-to-have-productive-mornings. I have a 4000 word essay on boring conservation-management-kinds-of-things (I’ll spare you the details–for now) coming up. I’ve been absolute rubbish at meeting deadlines, so this time I have a self-imposed deadline a week early, which is good, because that weekend (the weekend before the real deadline) there’s a big LDS YSA campout, (Latter-Day Saints use way too many acronyms), and I can only go if I get this paper written before said camping trip. I’m sure you’ll hear a follow up on that.

Anyway! Back to yesterday. In the workshop, I’ve spent the past week learning how to repair tears and holes in parchment. One historical method is to simply sew it up:


Photograph taken at Chichester Cathedral Library

And while this is still an option, today conservators often use solvent-set repair tissue or gelatine for tears, and holes might be patched using gelatine as an adhesive and either parchment or strong Japanese papers as the patch. Sometimes they will also use goldbeater’s skin, which is the outer layer of a calf’s intestine. I made a few test pieces of various weights of vellum and tried all the various mending techniques. Like I say, I spent several days doing this, just to get a feel for the materials and see how neat I could get the mends. Yesterday I was finally ready to mend the book I was working on. A week’s buildup for a procedure that only took an hour. That’s school for you. It’s nice to have the time to mess around like that–I mean learn. Alas, I don’t have pictures yet. I’ll post some before/after photos later.

Let’s see, what else do I do at West Dean? I conduct research for my MA thesis. I conduct research for my upcoming essay. I read. A lot. And I write. Or rather, I sit at my computer and struggle with writing. Sigh. I’m hoping for a breakthrough with this next essay…and the thesis actually frightens me less than the MA essays, in some ways. I conduct research for procedures I’m learning in the workshop. I conduct research on historical book structures, and I’m working on building a book, which hopefully once it’s completed will look something like this:

I write condition and treatment reports when I’ve completed a book (these take a surprising forever to write/format). I attend science lectures and MA lectures. And, uh. That’s all I can think of for now. I just didn’t want you to think that I was up to no good!

(Though the beautiful weather sure has made schoolwork less attractive lately!)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. zstitches permalink
    May 11, 2008 1:58 am

    I just discovered I hadn’t added you to my feeds, so I didn’t realize you’d been updating often.

    The stuff about mending parchment was fascinating to me. As someone who spends a lot of time doing textile conservation mending stuff, it wasn’t too hard to follow. (My mending project today: the lightweight pressed-board base of Mabel’s fabric toy dog bed had broken apart and the pieces were floating around inside the bottom of it, so I tore out some stitches and fished out the pieces and hand-sewed it closed again.)

  2. zstitches permalink
    May 11, 2008 1:59 am

    Hmm, I tried to use an overstrike code to cross out the words “textile conservation” (trying to be “humorous”) but it didn’t work. Oh, well.

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