Background Information

April 15, 2009

Personally, I have found this aspect of conservation [working with people] to be the most rewarding. To have conducted conservation treatments, with communities, and to hear positive feedback from these communities about the work undertaken, and the positive difference it has made. It is that which makes conservation worth while. – Dan Cull

Dan Cull’s “people-centric” vision of why he is a conservator set me to thinking a bit about my own reasons. The funny thing is, the question of “why book conservation” is probably the question that I receive the most when people discover what I do (just ahead of “what’s the oldest thing you’ve ever worked on?”). My stock answer doesn’t quite seem to live up to Dan’s in its nobility: I love the work. However, I think that if I unpack it a bit with further explanation, I don’t end up too far from the concept of public service

I started on the conservation track when I discovered that I truly enjoyed working with my hands, and more over, I found satisfaction in the physical progress of in even the basic treatments with which I was provided as a technician. Having found great satisfaction in the labor, I have also come to appreciate the bigger “whys” of conservation treatment: understanding the needs of a community or institution is key to identifying the goals of a conservation project, which is in turn key to planning a successful treatment. In the library community, I have learned that those needs generally revolve around the goal of providing users with long-term or permanent access to information-objects (understanding the appropriate form of that information-object is another whole entry or two).

My own “why” lies in a hope to add to the public good, or at least provide a neutral public service. Dan may call that “people-centric,” but since I have spent my career in large institutions, cordoned off from the public and the “end-user” of my work, I find that the phrase “public-service” better describes why I do what I do.


2 Responses to “Background Information”

  1. dancull Says:


    Thanks for commenting, and engaging, with my post. I specifically chose ‘people-centric’ as opposed to the term ‘public service’ because in the UK the term public service usually denotes someone who works for a local council institution. I was trying to find a term that was focused on the person, and would be non specific to place of work, or type of work… I gave my personal example, but, I believe a conservation administrator who never meets members of the ‘public’ could be practicing ‘people centric’ conservation, to use a made up situation. Its to do with the focus… it was great to see the same logical conclusion in your work.

    Also I’d like to say this line “There is even the possibility that my writings won’t fully represent my own thoughts, as I have a tendency to play the devil’s advocate in conceptual discussion.” from the ‘welcome’ post is brilliant!

    I am really looking forward to reading more on this blog, already I have learnt so much. Thankyou so much.

    All the best, Dan.

  2. conservationoccasional Says:

    I guess that here in the U.S., ‘public-service’ fits a more open ended need, but there is a part of me that is trying to express an even greater separation. Working in large institutions, I don’t regularly see the public. My interactions are typically with a curator or librarian, who serve as the responsible party, but yet aren’t the end user or owner. In my career, the user has almost always been a theoretical or abstract concept and so I find it a struggle to consider my work as being ‘people-centric’. However, I can certainly see how differing working environments can change that perspective.

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