Professional Development as a Conservator in Lockdown: my Lockdown Diary by Lisa Handke

In March 2020 our lives changed dramatically. Suddenly we were stuck at home, had to take on caring or home schooling responsibilities, had to work from home or found ourselves being furloughed. I, an employed book and paper conservator, couldn’t work from home while libraries and archives were closed and so I was furloughed. But to me it became very clear that I wanted to continue doing something productive, and I realised that this was the time to learn and carry on with professional development. This is my Professional Development in Lockdown Diary.

At the beginning I was only planning to read a lot as this is something I rarely have time for. So I picked a few books from the comprehensive collection of the Chantry Library and started reading. It was great to sit in the garden and read, but I also realised that I need something else – contact with people! I was very glad that our team stayed in touch, so we didn’t feel isolated and lonely, but I was wondering how we could come together as a wider community of conservators. Luckily this was when Icon started the Conservation: Together at Home Series. After the first two fantastic webinars held by fellow Oxford-based conservators Andrew Honey and Fiona McLees from the Bodleian Libraries, I stuck with it and watched most of them until the time I started preparing to go back to work. I enjoyed being part of a community that wanted to share knowledge, learn, connect and stay together while being at home. I remember the talk held by Lorraine Finch, where people shared lots of helpful tips in the chat box, and the paper presented by Fletcher Durant about Conservation not being neutral, which led to an important conversation in the chat. It was great to see so many people from all over the world united.

I also developed a deeper interest in Preservation as I was thinking about how conservators keep collections safe while not being able to be on site as much. I started looking for recorded or live webinars regarding disaster planning, mould prevention and pest management and came across some great sessions by AIC & FAIC. That was also the time when the Preservation Week was taking place, and I was able to watch webinars offered by the Library of Congress, Illinois Library and the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). In addition, I wanted to learn more about developing a sustainable approach as a conservator, so I watched the webinars by Sustainability in Conservation (SiC) and listened to the Conservators Combating Climate Change Podcast by AIC’s ECPN.

A platform that I started to use for my professional development was YouTube. I found more and more channels and playlists and realised one can spend hours on that platform as it always recommends related videos – you could go on forever! One of my favourite series was David Mill’s Lockdown Conservation Science, which was a great refresher of my chemistry lessons at University.

Throughout the whole period of Lockdown I was tracking what I read, watched and listened to. This really helped me to remember all those great resources and it also gave me the feeling I was actually doing something useful. I ended up with a really long Excel spreadsheet and a list of resources that I’m happy to share, in case someone is looking for ideas on how to educate themself further online. There is so much to discover on the World Wide Web!


Lisa Handke

Conservator, Oxford Conservation Consortium



Reading/Chantry Library resources

Kunststoff-Folien in der Papierrestaurierung, 1950-1970 : Schwerpunkt Deutschland

Galinsky, Eva | Banik, Gerhard | Wächter, Wolfgang | 2001 | Leipzig : Zentrum für Bucherhaltung | 263 pages

The codex and crafts in late antiquity

Boudalis, Georgios, author | [2018?] | New York : Bard Graduate Center | xix, 181 pages

Gels in the conservation of art

Gels in Conservation Conference (2017), creator. | Angelova, Lora, editor | Ormsby, Bronwyn, editor | Townsend, Joyce, editor | Wolbers, Richard, editor | 2017 | London : Archetype Books | xi, 400 pages

The archaeology of medieval bookbinding

Szirmai, J. A | 1999 | Aldershot : Ashgate | xvi, 352 pages

Limp vellum binding and its potential as a conservation type structure for the rebinding of early printed books : a break with nineteenth and twentieth century rebinding attitudes and practices

Clarkson, Christopher| 2005 | Oxford : Christopher Clarkson | xii, 23 pages

Online resources:

ICON Together at HomeICON Together at Home

Other online resources LH – topics include: Preservation, Disaster Planning, Mould, Sustainability – plus miscellaneous conservation webinars, channels/playlists, and online courses




Leave a Reply

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: