The Conservator of rare and general collections at the Peter H. Raven Library will be responsible for the care and conservation of collections material, preventive conservation, public engagement and outreach, coordination of volunteers and interns, and connecting to the conservation and cultural heritage fields.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities:
The Conservator will be responsible for performing item-level conservation treatment on rare and general collections materials. The Conservator must have knowledge of materials science and deterioration mechanisms and be able to recognize various types of damage and their causes. Treatments will include such techniques as mending, washing, deacidifying, board reattachment, attachment removal, encapsulation, rebinding, and others. Many treatment situations will require the modification of “standard” techniques, or the development of new solutions. Therefore, the Conservator must possess strong problem solving skills, as well as a firm knowledge of materials and potential treatment options. The goal of all treatment work will be to return the object to a stable and usable condition while minimizing interference with and damage to original information.
Conservation treatments must be performed according to current best practice standards as understood by the Conservator and the field of library and archives conservation. All treatment work must be done in accordance with the Code of Ethics of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). All treatments must be thoroughly documented through digital photography and detailed reports, as in accordance with the Guidelines for Practice as stated by the AIC.
The Conservator will assist with the design, establishment, and maintenance of various collections care and preventive conservation activities in cooperation with relevant staff and departments. These activities will include, but will not be limited to:
Integrated Pest Management: The careful monitoring of pest levels and swift intervention should an issue arise is essential to the prevention of damage caused by insects, mice, and other pests. The Conservator will be responsible for the implementation and monitoring of glue traps and general pest management activities throughout collections storage areas. The Conservator will also be responsible for the inspection of new acquisitions for signs of pest activity. If signs of pest problems are identified, the Conservator will perform appropriate intervention.
Disaster Plan: Disasters such as floods, fires, weather events, etc. should be anticipated, and a comprehensive and effective plan of action will help to prevent unnecessary damage to collections material should such events arise. The Conservator will work with the Director and other staff members to develop a disaster plan for the Library. The Conservator will also be responsible for the establishment, coordination, and training of a disaster response team, which will provide a previously determined list of people who will respond in the case of an emergency. The disaster plan will focus on the protection of collections material in the event of a disaster, but will stress that the primary concern in all such events is the safety of the staff, patrons, and other people involved, and will include parameters to ensure that safety.
Environmental Conditions: The Conservator will be responsible for implementing and maintaining a program to monitor temperature and relative humidity levels in collections storage areas.
Exhibition and Loan: The Conservator will be responsible for preparing materials for exhibition or loan. If necessary, the Conservator will be responsible for supervision during the installation and deinstallation of exhibits.
The Conservator will be responsible for working with the Library Curator and other staff to identify future projects and to write proposals for grants that will provide funds necessary to complete those projects. The Conservator will also be responsible for monitoring grant opportunities and applying for any that are appropriate for the Library’s work.
Public Engagement and Outreach:
As one of the few institutions in the St. Louis metro area with a conservation facility, the Peter H. Raven Library at the Missouri Botanical Garden will be instrumental in the efforts to inform the public of the nature and importance of the conservation of cultural heritage. The Conservator may be required to engage in public outreach through lab tours, public demonstrations, media presentations (television, radio, newspapers, etc.), or the creation of didactic or exhibition material that demonstrates conservation techniques and philosophies.
Coordination of Volunteers and Interns:
Volunteers: The Peter H. Raven Library has relied on a group of dedicated volunteers who perform basic preservation activities for many years. The Conservator will work to coordinate, train, and supervise volunteers in the performance of basic preservation techniques such as the creation of basic housings, simple repairs, and other tasks.
Interns: The Library Conservator will assist in the education of emerging conservation professionals through the development of an internship program. Interns will work with the Conservator to perform various conservation techniques according to their skill and experience level. The development of an internship program at the Peter H. Raven Library will benefit the Library by providing connections to the rest of the conservation community and bringing in talented emerging professionals whose work will benefit the collection.
Connecting to the Field:
The Library Conservator must stay current with developing techniques and philosophies in the field to ensure that they will be able to perform treatments in accordance with current best practice. The Conservator will be expected to be an active member in the conservation community through participation in professional organizations and meetings in order to maintain a professional network.
- Minimum of three (3) to five (5) years’ directly related experience working in a book conservation laboratory or private practice under the direction of a professional conservator.
- Demonstrated knowledge of the fundamentals, techniques, and history of book-binding, paper treatment, and conservation. A portfolio of successful relevant work and documentation examples is required.
- Knowledge of a wide range of conservation treatments and experience working with a variety of binding materials including fragile and rare and/or high value books and other special collections materials.
- Demonstrated experience working in exhibition preparation of book materials.
- Excellent manual dexterity and sustained concentration with delicate and occasionally repetitive tasks.
- Demonstrated ability to initiate and adapt to change, to analyze and solve problems, to be flexible and work well collaboratively and collegially in a small, but dynamic organizational setting, as well as independently.
- Strong organizational skills, including the ability to establish priorities and achieve goals.
- Experience working collaboratively in a research library and/or archives.
- Demonstrated ability to create various reports and write business correspondence and procedure manuals.
- Exceptional ability to communicate effectively at all levels; must enjoy and feel comfortable interacting and working in close proximity to general public, in a safe and friendly manner, answering questions.
- Scheduling flexibility that allows working some evenings and weekends may be required.
- Occasional travel required (local and domestic).
- The requirements and duties listed are representative and not exhaustive of the knowledge, skill, and/or abilities required.
- Bachelor’s degree including significant coursework in related fields such as history, art history, library science, museum studies, chemistry, materials science, and/or studio art is required.
- Physical ability to undertake collection care duties such as moving books and materials weighing up to 40 lbs., operating lab machinery and working in sometimes dusty and moldy environments.
- Ability to stand and move about entire facility for extended periods of time; frequent standing, reaching and bending – 50% or more of the workday, at times, may be spent standing on feet.
- Ability to utilize computer keyboard (typing).
- Must be able to work both indoors and out.
- May be required to perform tasks at varying heights (i.e., climb step stools, ladders, etc.).
- Principally operates standard office equipment to include computers, copiers, files, fax machines.
- Indoor office setting, shared by multiple staff; noise level is usually moderate.
- Some travel to off-site meetings is required.
- At times, required to work in dusty and moldy environments.
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