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Craig Preservation Lab

New Employee News

For this month’s Preservation Lab Blog post, as her supervisor, let me introduce our newest full-time employee, Hannah Helton.

-Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator


Nearly four months ago I was hired as the Paper Conservation Technician for the paper lab. I was a student employee here before, so I expected to settle quickly into the lab’s daily rhythm, but the transition held a few surprises. On my third day as a full-time employee I set off the security alarm, met an IU police officer, handled a Spencer repeating rifle, read the world’s largest newspaper, and cut the tip off my left thumb.

I’m still learning something every day, whether it’s related to conservation methods or the cogs and gears of the IU libraries. I’m also meeting new people all the time, making acquaintances in departments across campus, and building stronger relationships with the people I met as a student employee.

After coming back to the lab, I was very excited to finally see the inside of the ALF vault. I never got a chance to enter it as a student employee, so it held a certain mystery for me. I’ve been there dozens of times now, but the feeling remains. There are a lot of dark aisles in the vault and little shadowed passageways between them, guarded by hundreds of thousands of books resting on shelving units three stories tall, and my imagination likes to run rampant within it.

I also discovered that my background in metalsmithing is very helpful to me here. I’m no longer fixing a solder joint, I’m mending paper. Instead of making vessels out of copper, I’m using corrugate. Even my jeweler’s saw has a place at work; it’s invaluable for cutting curves out of board and Foamcore. On my desk is a metal sculpture I made as a student at IU. Next to it is a cloth-covered box I made out of mat board to hold templates. Both items required very similar techniques to create very different outcomes.

I think that initial week was a personal record in odd accomplishments. I haven’t approached any coworkers with a bloodied hand since day three, but I have handled even more extraordinary objects and mastered my utility knife, so I’d say things are going pretty well for this IU Library employee.

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