Conservation Conversations in Copenhagen: Lessons Learned

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of presenting my work on Marguerite Duprez Lahey and the rebinding of books at the seminar on Care and Conservation of Manuscripts in Copenhagen. It was my first time in Denmark, and although I didn’t have time for much more than the conference, I had a wonderful time.


A street in Copenhagen

I had heard that this conference tends to have great talks, and it did not disappoint. Topics ranged from digitization management to x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy analysis of Ethiopian manuscripts in remote churches. A Harvard colleague talked about treating English manor rolls, while a former colleague from the Columbia University spoke about incorporating the conservation of a particular book into a graduate class on historical musicology. (Abstracts of all talks are available here).

My own presentation was well attended and I received lots of questions, some of which suggested new avenues for exploration. This was my first professional presentation outside of graduate school, and while it went well, it was definitely a learning experience. I had begun preparing for the presentation well in advance — but I learned that there is no such thing as beginning too early! Unexpected obligations came up and took precedence over the presentation, and  despite my early start, I still found myself having to scramble a bit to put it all together at the end.

I also reaffirmed the value of having other people critique one’s work. I ran my script by a mentor, and several colleagues in the Weissman Preservation Center sat through the first couple of versions of my talk. Their feedback made all the difference in making my presentation more streamlined and easy to follow.

Finally, and this is somewhat related: I learned the value of asking for help. I presented both a paper and a poster, and the latter required a diagram to illustrate my experimental set-up. Putting together something that looked professional would have taken me time I didn’t really have — I can manage relatively simple images, like collation charts, but this required a little more finesse. I finally swallowed my pride and asked for help from a good friend who dabbles in graphic design. A few hours later, I had my diagram, and my friend’s help meant I had more time to focus on all the other things I had to do (like practicing my talk!)



About Saira

Saira is a newly fledged book conservator currently based in New York.
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