Monday, April 23, 2012

Portraits in Preservation SE – Jackie Divis Doyle

Portraits in Preservation Student Edition, Preservation Week 2012

Jackie Divis Doyle (née Smith) is a bookbinder, soon-to-be preservation librarian, and—hopefully—future conservator. A former English major who has worked for over five years in scientific publishing, Jackie has spent the last two years working toward a master’s degree in Library andInformation Science at Simmons College in Boston, MA. While concentrating her studies on preservation and special collections, she has worked at Beatley Library (Simmons College), repairing general-collections materials, as well as interned at Baker Library (Harvard Business School), working with special collections. Jackie blogs about book arts, preservation, and libraries at Binding Obsession, and an online shop featuring her hand-bound notebooks is scheduled to open later this year.

What experience or person has greatly influenced your desire to pursue preservation?

During my first semester of grad school, I took a course called Preservation Management, taught by Donia Conn. I already knew beforehand that I wanted to concentrate my studies on preservation, but Donia’s focus on the practical aspects really hit home for me. When I had the chance to work with her again over the summer in Collection Maintenance, where we learned basic book and paper repair, I was certain I was on the right path. Moreover, I realized that, long term, I wanted to work toward a career in conservation. I’m extremely lucky to have gotten to work with Donia, who has always been very encouraging, and getting hands-on experience in that summer class opened several doors for me later on.

What has been a particularly rewarding experience in your preservation training?

The above experiences certainly apply, but one of the doors that Collection Maintenance opened up was an internship at Baker Library. I worked for three months as an intern in the preservation/conservation lab with Priscilla Anderson, Lisa Clark, and Noah Sheola. It was there that I was truly able to make a connection between what I had been learning in my classes and the reality on the ground, as it were. That contrast was instructive on its own, but I also gained new hand skills during my time there, working on things like surface cleaning, flattening, mold vacuuming, and disbinding. Additionally, I improved my skills with cradle making and paper repair. I had a lot of fun during those three months, and it was really exciting to be able to work with manuscripts and other historical documents; previously, I’d only worked with circulating collections. It was a wonderful experience for me.

What are you looking forward to personally contributing to the larger preservation world?

One of the things that has drawn me to preservation, other than a passion for the overarching mission and a love of working with my hands, is the way preservationists and conservators approach problems, drawing what they can from other fields to apply to their own. I love seeing what new, unexpected materials and techniques my (future) colleagues come up with to solve unique preservation problems (some solutions for custom enclosures are particularly fascinating), and I’m looking forward to being a part of this dialog and contributing some solutions of my own.

What do you see is a pressing issue facing the preservation world?

I think it’s fair to say that digital preservation is one of the most pressing problems of our day. How to keep digital files accessible long term is a fascinating problem, and it’s especially knotty because benign neglect, which works reasonably well with many paper-based materials, is not an acceptable solution for dealing with digital files. We’re at risk of losing so much of our cultural history—particularly on a personal level—if we don’t actively preserve and curate these files. This isn’t where I see the focus of my career being in five, or ten, or twenty years (although, who knows!), but I’ve done some coursework in this area, and I do think that it’s imperative that public outreach and education be expanded, for the benefit of individuals, families, and society as a whole. It’s easy for us to look at how digital objects proliferate on the Internet and think it’s inevitable that these materials will be around forever, but that’s just not true. Cultural and academic institutions are at least starting to pay attention to these issues, but as a society I think we have a long way to go.

Bonus question (optional) - What do you want to preserve and why?

My primary interest is in book conservation. As a physical object, the book is not inherently complex—but, over time, human civilization has taken this relatively basic idea and applied so many different nuances to it. The book has always been something of a magical object for me, and I’ve loved learning about how multiple elements come together to create a unified whole. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of learning more about historic book structures, and applying that knowledge to my work in conservation and bookbinding.

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