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Tuesday, May 30 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(Book & Paper) Medium Rare: An Innovative Treatment Approach to the Space between Special and General Collections

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Faced with a dwindling amount of general collection items in need of repair, in February 2016, the conservation staff at the University of Illinois Library began implementing a new treatment workflow, titled "Medium Rare Conservation”. The motivations for this new workflow were clear; in addition making the best use of the skills and newly available time of the staff technicians, this "in-between workflow” could potentially allow Conservation to serve collections more widely by making treatment available to objects that would otherwise be difficult to prioritize given competing needs and limitations. Furthermore, we hoped it would give us a chance to address a long-existing need in Library and Archives Conservation—namely, how do we treat items that have exceptional material, historical, or condition characteristics that make them complicated to categorize beyond their collection designation? In a University system with 24 million collection items, over 25 subject libraries, and only four full time conservators and technicians, the Medium Rare workflow provided an exciting opportunity for a small conservation staff to work together to have a wide reach. As we began the development of the new workflow, similarities with existing workflows emerged. Several aspects of Special Collection Conservation carried over as important logistical and ethical considerations for the new workflow, including transportation procedures, documentation methods, and frequent communication with collection managers. However, we also saw the need to streamline certain elements of the conservation treatment process to save time and build efficiency, much like our general collection repair practices. This was accomplished by adding a new, short-form documentation interface to our existing database, and truncating our photo-documentation process. It also meant making hard, but clear and firm decisions on what had be excluded from the workflow, such as any item that required the use of chemical solvents or the integration or specialized working of leather or parchment. Now, as we continue to develop Medium Rare Conservation, we are beginning to observe other benefits. Our already strong working relationships with collection managers have been augmented with close communication and a quicker turnaround of treated items. Additionally, our capable technicians are now utilizing their skills on expanded treatment opportunities rather than being limited to the batch work of general collections. Conservators can continue to focus on items that need a higher level of care and attention while also simultaneously supervising the treatment of collection items identified as Medium Rare. Slowly but surely, we are also beginning to see a rise in the number of collections served. With a deep discussion of the goals, the parameters, the benefits and, of course, the challenges involved in creating and implementing a new conservation treatment workflow, this presentation aims to offer a possible model for other institutions who face similar issues within their collections. Moreover, we also desire to solicit feedback in order to continue to grow and improve what we hope will be a successful addition to our preservation program, and ultimately, an excellent way to magnify our scope and impact on the library collections in our care.

avatar for Quinn Morgan Ferris

Quinn Morgan Ferris

Senior Conservator for Special Collections, University of Illinois
Quinn Morgan Ferris is the Senior Conservator for Special Collections and Coordinator for Conservation Services at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign, where she started as the Rare Book Conservator in 2016. Quinn's current position at the U of I includes conservation... Read More →

Tuesday May 30, 2017 4:30pm - 5:00pm CDT
Regency A-B Ballroom Level, West Tower