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Collections on the move: Surgical tools, chemical sponges, papers, pastes and a lot of decision making

17 Mar 2017

Kostas Tsafaridis

My name is Kostas Tsafaridis and I am a Paper Conservator working for the RCS Library. My role is to assist the Library and the Collections Manager to design, organise and carry out the project linked to the redevelopment of the Lincoln’s Inn Fields building. This involves moving the whole library collection – approx. 120 thousand bound volumes currently housed in the College into storage, while the renovation of the College’s building takes place.


From a conservation point of view, this project can be summarised as preparing the collection, by cleaning volumes and wrapping them in tissue-paper, before moving them into crates to be taken to their new storage space. However, it is far more than just that.

Conservation 3Printed books are made of several different materials, such as the page paper and book covers for example, which will require different treatments and/or applications. Before any work is undertaken, I consider the materials involved and the science and chemistry behind them. Apart from this aspect of my role there are many other decisions that a conservator is responsible for.

The environmental conditions that the items will experience during the removal process and while in transit must be considered. All archive repositories should meet specific regulations regarding environmental conditions. My role is to make sure that these conditions are met even when the volumes are inside crates, minimising any environmental variations or the risk of any unwanted elements (e.g. moisture in any form) sneaking in and damaging items.

The health and safety of the staff involved during the removal is very important. I provide appropriate training, guidance, protective equipment and the tools required to carry out the work on the collection. The work involves handling materials in an environment that is not necessarily clean, so masks and gloves are essential. The processes may require the use of tools, including sharp blades, such scalpels and knives, as well as bone folders and brushes. Untrained staff need training on how to use these tools safely and it is up to me to guide them through the process so no accidents happen to my colleagues and no damage is caused to the collection.

My major responsibility is the overall safety of the collection during all stages of the decant process and any decisions regarding the transit and storage of the volumes until they are safely returned to the College in 2020. Overall, I have found that LSIS is a warm family and I take pride in being its Decant Conservator and working on this interesting project.

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We will continue to post our progress in the coming months. Look out for the tagline “Collections on the move” to read earlier posts. Please get in touch if you have any questions or leave us a comment.

Kostas Tsafaridis, Library Decant Assistant

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