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Laura Dellapiana: Conserving and Preserving the Books of Spencer Fullerton Baird

Posted on Oct 21, 2015 by in The OFI Blog |

Laura Dellapiana working on a sample of the letterpress copying books of Spencer Fullerton Baird.

Laura Dellapiana working on a sample of the letterpress copying books of Spencer Fullerton Baird.

To say Laura Dellapiana is good with details would be an understatement.  A Conservation Fellow at the Smithsonian Center for Archives Conservation (SIA-SCAC), Laura’s painstaking, yet highly rewarding research involves how to best conserve and preserve the letterpress copying books of Spencer Fullerton Baird, the second secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Baird, an accomplished naturalist, ornithologist, and ichthyologist, as well as a renowned collector, served from 1878-1887. Many of the books from his collection suffer from severe iron-gall ink corrosion and ink fading. Laura’s project, under the supervision of SIA Senior Conservator, Nora Lockshin, piggybacks on the work begun by previous SIA Fellow, Beth Antoine. Laura’s fellowship goals include identifying new research questions from Antoine’s conclusions and and completing new tests to expand upon non-aqueous conservation treatments with antioxidants. In addition, Laura is developing risk assessment guidelines and treatment methods for these problematic artifacts. The project is conducted through tests on samples from, and mock-ups of the Baird letterpress copybooks sheets experimenting with different antioxidants, adhesives, and application techniques, to model effective workflow to stabilize the volumes for digitization in the future. The materials are tested for aging effects and tensile strength. Providing solutions for these new research questions and methods are not only important for the Baird collection of the Smithsonian Institution Archives, but also for archives, libraries, and historical collections all over the world.

Laura, a conservator in Italy specializing in the conservation of books and paper-based materials, holds a M.A. in Conservation and Restoration from the Academy of Fine Arts, Turin, Italy. In 2013 she completed a four month internship at the Laboratorio di Restauro Polimaterico at the Vatican Museums, Vatican City, for her Master’s Thesis. In addition to hiking, Laura loves anything related to music, books and paper.