Conservation Lab 30th Anniversary

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The University of Iowa Conservation Lab Celebrates its 30th Anniversary

Founded in 1984 by Conservator Bill Anthony, 2014 marked the 30th year of the University of Iowa Libraries Conservation Lab. Anthony established a conservation program to address the physical needs of the collections, from stabilization and simple repairs, to complex rebinding projects. In 1987 the Lab merged with the newly formed Preservation Department to provide treatment to circulating and non-circulating materials in all the University Libraries.

Anthony understood the importance of teaching and training. With funding from the Mellon Foundation, he created conservation apprenticeships that mirrored his traditional training as a bookbinder. Today that teaching continues with preservation and conservation classes, mentorships, and student positions in the Conservation Lab. In partnership with the University of Iowa Center for the Book, students involved in bookbinding, papermaking and printing can further their study of the book through conservation treatment.

During 2014 the Preservation & Conservation Department hosted a series of events celebrating thirty years of collection care.

 Benefit Auction and Plainly Spoken Closing Reception

esser_mark_01November 13th: Two events marked the closing of the UI Libraries Conservation Lab’s 30th anniversary celebration: a reception for the Midwest Guild of Bookworkers Exhibit Plainly Spoken, and an auction of fine bindings, to benefit the William Anthony Conservation Fund. The festivities took place in Special Collections, 3rd floor of the Main Library, on November 13th, 2014, from 6-8pm.

The Auction featured 10 fine bindings from “alumni” and friends of the Conservation Lab, including Mark Esser, Pamela Spitzmueller, Gary Frost, Penny McKean, Anna Embree, Julie Leonard, Emily Martin, William Minter, Lawrence Yerkes, Bill Voss, Caitlin Moore, and a handmade tool from Shanna Leino. Profiles of the auction participants were posted on the Preservation Beat blog: The Auction itself took place onsite and online, with the bindings available for viewing during the reception. All proceeds benefited the William Anthony Conservation Fund, which supports ongoing conservation activities and special projects.



The Midwest Guild of Bookworkers traveling exhibition was on display, August 14 – November 30 2014, in the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections. In 1998, Julia Miller began the monumental task of sifting through notes and observations made during her 30 year career as an archivist and book conservator.  After 8 years of additional research, she began to write.  The publication that resulted, Books Will Speak Plain, (The Legacy Press 2010) is 500-page handbook aimed at conservators, collectors, librarians, and book lovers, for the identification and description of book structures and styles.

The Midwest Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers is delighted to showcase Miller’s book in this theme-based exhibit.  Bookbinders from across the country acquired the text in folded sheets and, months later, presented them to a jury of three as a completed book.  This exhibit includes a range of binding ideas: models that replicate books from an historical period; cut-aways that visually reveal their hidden structure; design bindings that interpret a concept from the text; and artists’ bindings that play with structures and materials to create something new.


007_adamFebruary 10: Conservator, Adam Larsson, Uppsala University, Sweden. Lecture on his work in Uppsala, a workshop on a Northern European style of limp vellum binding, based on structures found in the Carolina Rediviva Library. Iowa City was the first stop on Adam’s month-long visit to the United States, and the Conservation Department and The University of Iowa Center for the Book took full advantage of his presence.




DSC_8648March-May: “Expanding Conservation Treatment: 30 years of Collections Care at the University of Iowa Libraries Exhibit” Special Collections, third floor, Main Library. This exhibit shows just a small snapshot into the world of book conservation treatment at the University of Iowa Libraries. Over the last 30 years, the development of various kinds of treatments and the evolution of those how those methods through the book arts has expanded and will continue to do so into the future.




erin-hart-1May 1: Author Erin Hart & musician Paddy O’Brien. Hart will share how the discovery of the ninth century Fadden More Psalter inspired her latest novel. Hart worked with preservationists, conservationists, and scholars to include the book’s actual history in her story. Event includes tours of the Conservation Lab and the Iowa Women’s Archives. (link to poster)




Pam Lecture image

September 4: Conservation Lecture by Pamela Spitzmueller, University of Iowa’s Conservator from 1989-1999. Spitzmueller’s lecture, “Books as Physical Objects or How Conserving Damaged Rare Books and Manuscripts Inspired Me to Create New Book Objects” will cover her 35 year career in library conservation and book arts, from Chicago (Newberry Library), Washington, DC (Library of Congress), Iowa City (University of Iowa Library) and Cambridge, MA (Harvard University Library).

She has presented many lectures on historical book structures and created workshops on long and link stitch sewing; girdle books; a multi-quire, wooden-boarded codex from Egypt and most recently a model of a 17th c. printed Almanac for tradesmen with erasable pages.  Pamela is also a retired Paper and Book Intensive Co-director where she has taught many classes.