National Library of Scotland’s Conservation Workshop

I spent this afternoon in the bowels of the National Library of Scotland.

While deliciously labyrinthine, I was glad to have a guide.

I think I was nine floors below street level before I saw a window.

In among the nation’s treasured King James Bible and the First Folio of Shakespeare, I was observing in the Conservation Workshop.

Don’t think they have only one, mind. It’s just the only one in the main building. The other two are out of town.

This Workshop (and the capital W is more than deserved) specialises in conserving antiquities.

We talked about a stone book they’d just received from Australia; a gift. And a special acid-free foam that hugs their paper sculpture.

Kindly hosts showed me how to gold foil onto leather spines and calculate the weight of paper pulp to fill in a worn or torn page.

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They also explained the key difference between conservation and restoration. Here, in Conservation, they always make sure the repairs show. This isn’t to just cover up the damage. It is essential to keep distinct the original from the fix.

It was intoxicating. The deathly calm of bustling conservators was both gently lulling and completely exciting.

I am very glad  that in my fervour I did not knock over the big stack of vintage film posters which were awaiting mounts for the summer exhibition. That would have been bad.

I wish I had been allowed to take photos in those hallowed halls for you, though. But you’ll just have to take my word for it. There is magic down in the deep.

Want to know more about the Library that receives more than 6,000 items a week? Here is the brief intro:

http://youtu.be/SZRWFJQMXMI

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