The National Trust’s collection of some 600,000 books in 170 locations is cared for by property staff, volunteers and freelance conservators, working together to maintain the libraries in good working condition. Managing the environment, tracking down pests, creating conservation techniques that are discreet, and stabilising the collections for use are the main elements. Conservation evolves as the books’ use evolves, e.g. the catalogue is now available on-line and more researchers require access.

The increased wish to use the books for visitor engagement projects provides further challenges. Given that most of the books have not been restored, the collection provides a physical history of the book trade and of the interaction between books and their owners/readers that is difficult to match elsewhere, so the conservation of books as objects is as important as preserving their texts.

 

Caroline Bendix

Caroline Bendix is a library conservator, accredited through the Institute of Conservation, who has worked on over 500 collections in the UK and abroad, including St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, advising on all aspects of books’ care in situ. She has written three of the British Library’s guides on preservation and in 2019 was awarded the Plowden Medal for her “outstanding work in developing in-situ library conservation”. Since 1992 she has been the National Trust’s Adviser on Libraries Conservation, the adviser and trainer for The Arts Society’s Heritage Volunteers projects and is on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s advisory panel for Lambeth Palace Library.