Conservation in the Age of COVID-19

Practice at sewing endbands while working remotely as a book and paper conservator

My average work day as an assistant conservator for Emory Libraries is spent primarily at the bench, performing conservation treatment on special collections materials. So, what have these first weeks of working from home looked like for me?

I brought home my work laptop and completed several crash courses on using Zoom and working remotely. I hoped this would help me transition to our new working situation and strategize how to maintain collaboration and productivity (via LinkedIn Learning and Lyrasis, for example).

I brought home several books that I was planning to read, but despite declaring an hour a week of research reading as an annual performance goal, I hadn’t opened them. The conservation, preservation, book arts, and art handling communities have generously shared recommendations for online training resources. Some of these include Duke University Libraries, Khan Academy, LinkedIn Learning, Image Permanence Institute, FAIC Connecting to Collections Care, AIC Sustainable Practices Wiki, and Conservation OnLine (CoOL).

Julie is wearing an N95 respirator, dedicated months ago to art and home repair projects, now carefully inspected and stored between uses. This respirator is an example of the N95s that we donated to the Emory Midtown ER nursing team and Emory HealthCare.

The first weeks have been an ironically opportune time to catch up on annual PPE training (personal protective equipment). Also, as part of the Emory Libraries Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee, our group shared opportunities for online training

I really love the hands-on part of my vocation, so here’s what I am doing to break-up computer work and analogue reading time. I am folding in some hand dexterity and skill-building practice by mastering the sewing of endbands. I built a simple finishing press with much help from my husband, who is also sheltering in place after the cancelling of his after-school art teaching job. I am practicing endbands on my own paperbacks, hoping that I will not end-up with the fanciest paperback collection in town!


Julie Newton, Assistant Conservator-Emory Libraries

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