Aisha Wahab is slowly and carefully removing the backing from an old and large print, while Lauren Calcote sits across the room sewing book sections back together. Aisha and Lauren are the first Cathleen A. Baker Fellows in Conservation at the U-M Library.
The fellowship gives students, practicing conservators, and researchers the opportunity to actively conserve materials from the library’s extensive collection, including books, paper, Islamic manuscripts, ancient papyri and more.
Cathleen Baker, Ph.D., a Conservation Librarian at the U-M Library, established the fellowship in 2011. “Conservators, whether they are associated with institutions or in private practice, are not usually in a financial position to leave their work temporarily to pursue a short-term project that will benefit the profession and our cultural heritage,” says Baker. “I am certainly not a wealthy person, but the money that I’ve donated since the establishment of this Fellowship is enough to bring wonderful people to our department. And I am more than happy to give back, in this small way, to the profession that has been so rewarding to me.
Baker hopes that others will contribute to the fellowship program, so that the library can offer more opportunities to conservation students and professionals.
Lauren Calcote (left), Cathleen Baker, and Aisha Wahab
Shannon Zachary, Head of the Department of Preservation and Conservation, said, “We are thrilled by this opportunity to have two talented young conservators with us in the Conservation Lab this year. Their residency is a chance for them to learn, but they are also sharing information back with us. It keeps our program fresh and vibrant and gives us new perspectives on how best to care for the Library's extraordinary collections.”
Lauren Calcote is a September 2012 graduate of the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department’s master’s degree program, specializing in book conservation. During her Baker Fellowship she is focusing on historical binding structures and book conservation treatments ranging from batch treatment of nineteenth-century cloth bindings to individual treatment of complex vellum-covered books. She appreciates “the chance to look at and work with an amazing breadth of material – a lot of stuff.”
The Baker Fellowship is helping to support Aisha Wahab’s third-year internship at the U-M Library Conservation Lab; this is her final year in the Buffalo State College program. Specializing in paper conservation, she has particular interest in the conservation of Islamic and Middle Eastern manuscripts. “I’ve been places where you aren’t allowed to touch anything,” she says, but at U-M she has been able to pursue her interest in Islamic manuscripts, actively participate in preparing exhibit items for display, and work on preserving papyri. “In this lab, everyone is willing to take the time to teach you.”
Calcote and Wahab started their fellowships in early September and will remain in residence with the Conservation Lab through August 2013.
Applications for fellowship projects starting in Fall 2013 are due January 31, 2013. Information about the fellowship and application forms are available here.