Stop Press: Essential Reading for Book Conservators – Article on using Woven Fabrics in Book Conservation!

We are delighted to announce that the latest issue of Studies in Conservation features research from conservators at the Oxford Conservation Consortium – now out in print! 

The article presents findings on the strength and durability of cotton and linen woven fabrics typically used in conservation. It derives from a collaborative project, discussed in an earlier blog post, between the Oxford Conservation Consortium and Bodleian Libraries Conservation and Collection Care, with materials scientists from Cranfield University.  So congratulations to the authors, especially our own Celia Bockmuehl and Nikki Tomkins!

You can read the full article here online, or contact the Chantry Librarian for information about our scanning service.

The citation is: C.R. Bockmuehl, N. Tomkins, J. Keiding, R. Critchley, A. Peare, D.J. Carr, “Woven Fabrics in Book Conservation: An Investigation into the Properties of Aerolinen and Aerocotton”, Studies in Conservation (2020), volume 65, issue 7.

Also if you are interested in the subject do read Celia and Nikki’s contribution on Woven Fabrics to our series of Chantry Subject Bibliographies

#AskAConservator day 2020 on 18th November!

As we mentioned in our recent post on the 1966 Florence flood the 18th of November is Ask a Conservator day. Use the hashtag #AskAConservator on social media platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) with questions for conservators – or to help spread the word about conservation and what conservators actually do. There is more information from ICON and on the AIC/FAIC website. The day is being held in remembrance of the 1966 flood, a terrible event that – as a spur to innovation – helped make the conservation profession what it is today. So please do get involved tomorrow with #AskAConservator.

Experiments in Parchment

OCC/Bodleian parchment-making course of 2013

Chantry blog readers might be interested in the experimental parchment-making activities held at the University of Namur, Belgium, last November, part of the ‘Physics of Parchment’ symposium exploring parchment through both practical and theoretical approaches. Details can be found here plus the abstract book and post-workshop article.

This symposium was organised by the Pergamenum 21 project, an interdisciplinary research project dedicated to parchment studies and more particularly answering questions about species identification, choice of parchment, impact of material on manuscript production, etc.

Visit their website for further information about the project.

Florence 1966

In England, early November is usually associated with fire: 5 November, Guy Fawkes, gunpowder, treason, and all that. From a conservation point of view 4 November marks a more recent – and sombre – anniversary due to another ‘element’: water. On that date the River Arno inundated the city of Florence, with flood-waters reaching nearly 7m in some places. As well as killing over 100 people, the 1966 flood also did massive harm to the rich cultural heritage of this famous centre of the Renaissance. Collections particularly badly affected included the Archivio di Opera del Duomo, the Biblioteca del Gabinetto Vieusseux, the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, and the Archivio di Stato di Firenze. Hundreds of thousands of records, books, and other art and artefacts were damaged prompting a huge international conservation effort. Volunteers were known as ‘mud angels’. The challenge of this immense operation prompted innovation, and the flood became a key moment in the development of modern conservation, with new concepts like ‘phase conservation’ and methods such as mass deacidification deployed.

The Chantry holds the proceedings of a symposium to mark the 40th anniversary of the flood: Conservation legacies of the Florence flood of 1966 (Con/Spa).

If this might seem a grim moment to commemorate such a disaster; perhaps it can serve as a reminder of the cooperation and innovation that these sort of events can prompt. The next ‘Ask of conservator day‘ on 18 November is being held in remembrance of the Florence flood, following in the ‘spirit of that international collaboration and exchange of knowledge’. Use the #AskAConservator hashtag on social media platforms then to engage with conservators in the 21st century.

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




Some reminiscences of Judith Chantry from Jane Eagan

For the younger conservation professionals, I thought it might be nice to share some memories of the Chantry Library and Judith Chantry by those who knew and worked with her. For background to the Library and Judith, please see our website and the feature on Icon’s website here which includes a timeline of the library’s history.

I used the Chantry Library extensively when I was a student at Camberwell on the MA course from 1993 to 1995. I was lucky enough to do some summer work in Oxford and learned quickly that a visit to the library (then housed in the Ashmolean Museum) could be booked with Judith Chantry. I knew very little about Judith, how instrumental she was in the work of the Institute of Paper Conservation, that she had trained as a librarian, and that she had a very dry sense of humour. On my arrival Judith was lovely, put the kettle on, and wanted to have a chat about what I was reading. She warned me that the library was small, outside her window she had a thriving papyrus plant which she was very proud of. She was impeccably dressed, always in a skirt, often accessorized with a rather dashing scarf and her hair in a lovely chignon. She had a calm presence, wore her experience and knowledge lightly, and was hugely helpful and encouraging to a student conservator. I was interested in boardmaking, and she very kindly lent me Edo Loeber’s Paper Mould and Mould Maker, for which I was extremely grateful (PaH/Lo). (If you don’t know this work and are interested in papermaking, I encourage you to have a look.)

For 20 years, from 1979 to 1999, printmaker Barry Cottrell worked in Judith’s paper conservation studio at the Ashmolean Museum. Barry is an artist working in copper engraving, and for years supported his artistic work by cutting mounts for the Ashmolean. Barry shared Judith’s studio, cutting beautiful mounts by hand with his Dexter mount cutter. He recalls her kindness and support and has shared a photo of Judith in 1986, taken at an opening party for the exhibition of work by John Bensusan-Butt and Lucien Pissarro in the Ashmolean’s Eldon Gallery. Lucien Pissarro was Bensusan-Butt’s uncle by marriage and became his adviser and teacher throughout his career.

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Barry Cottrell (left) with Judith behind (right) at a launch party at the Ashmolean in 1986

Barry carries on making beautiful engravings, using the burin as his main tool, and producing the ‘driven line’. One of his early prints, ‘His Master’s Dog’, inspired by the work of the fifteenth-century ‘Master of the Housebook’, is in the Ashmolean and British Museum print collections. It was printed on heavy watercolour paper made by the Two Rivers Paper Company of Somerset, still working today. You can read more about Barry’s work here and about Two Rivers Paper here.

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‘His master’s dog’ by Barry Cottrell (1986?)

Barry’s recent work includes the engraving ‘Satyr with conch holding a small ewer’, inspired by an engraving in the V&A by Italian engraver Enea Vico in 1543, depicting a satyr with a conch on top of a very large ewer, and his ‘Polka dot Madonna’ in 2020.

If anyone has memories of Judith they would like to share please contact us!

Jane Eagan

Head of Conservation and Preservation

Oxford Conservation Consortium

Signs of the times

As conservators – and librarians – prepare to go back to our workplaces along with much of the rest of the country we are likely to find them carefully marked up to remind us to maintain social distancing. Evidence has been spotted outside the Chantry Library (and for the avoidance of public transport).


If only this approach could be extended to other aspects of our work, for example to preventive conservation, it might open new possibilities – a more persuasive approach to “Integrated Pest Management”.Annotation 2020-07-14 165025

Fortunately – or not – this is unlikely to require a quick update of Amy Crossman and David Pinniger’s excellent new Chantry Library Subject Bibliography on IPM, mentioned in an earlier blog post, and available here.

Before more fanciful thoughts follow, we will end on a more serious note – with another quick reminder about the ICON resources and coronavirus guidance for conservators.

Virtual Pest Odyssey Annual IPM Meeting July 8 th 2020 (and an imminent Chantry Library Subject Bibliography

In just over a fortnight the Pest Odyssey Network is holding its annual meeting virtually on 8th July from 12:45-15:45. The title is ‘Pest Off with Covid and Other Stories’, and the implications for integrated pest management of the lockdown is a strong theme! Abstracts can be found at here.

Amy Crossman will be speaking about sources of information for the IPM practitioner, including the Chantry Library and What’s Eating Your Collections website. Amy has worked with David Pinniger to prepare the next Chantry subject bibliography on IPM. Their bibliography will be launched soon, so please watch this space!

To sign up for the meeting, go to:

“Waking up collections” – ICON guidelines available

A short new topical C-19 blog post, for libraries and archives looking at reopening in the near future. It may not be the first thing librarians, archivists, or conservators are thinking about, but the period of lock-down has implications for the conservation of collections, and ICON has help to offer as collections are “woken up”:

The ICON Care of Collections Group in coordination with Heads of Conservation and Scientific Departments in National Museums, Galleries, Libraries and Archives Group has published a document with guidelines: ‘Waking up’ collections: a post-lockdown guide. Do have a look if your library/archive is preparing or planning to reopen.