Giorgia photo

Giorgia Genco is training to become a book conservator. She spent two weeks at Chawton House Library in May 2014 assisting the conservator, Caroline Bendix, with a survey of our rare books.

Giorgia returns in February 2015 to help Caroline once more, this time on a book conservation training day for our library volunteers. Here Giorgia talks about her experiences in England so far.

After getting my degree in book conservation in Italy, I started my Icon – Heritage Lottery Fund Training Bursaries Programme in book collection care at the end of April 2014. Caroline Bendix is my supervisor and working with her is a great opportunity to learn all about library conservation. My internship is very rich and varied in activities, involving several aspects of book collection care such as preventive and in situ conservation, surveys, packing and training volunteers.

My time in England started in February, on a chilly morning in Derbyshire when I arrived from Sicily at Calke Abbey, a wonderful National Trust property, feeling as if I had got off a time machine in the 18th century. I was amazed by the stunning rooms (especially the library, not that I’m biased..) surrounded by green fields, deer and sheep. Having never been to England before, I had dreamed of these idyllic country scenes and was delighted to discover they were a reality!

Since that day I have had the opportunity to work in several National Trust houses and in other wonderful places all around England, such as Chawton House Library.

I spent two weeks at the library at the end of May helping Caroline to conduct a survey of the precious collection – assessing the condition of the books and what action to take. Since I was fairly new in my internship, it was a great chance to learn about how to record data and which criteria to adopt. I also improved my knowledge in identifying the materials and physical structures of the books. Carrying out a survey means looking at many different aspects involved in book conservation like environment control and shelving assessment.

I had a wonderful time in Chawton, it’s a lovely place! I met great people at the library who are very conscious of the value of the collection and the importance of looking after it and making it accessible for future generations.

Since May, I have been all around England from Yorkshire to Kent and I have learnt so many things working in stunning places like the Codrington Library in Oxford and Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. This experience with collections extended my understanding of conserving books, looking at their context, materials and connection to history plus their manufacture and trading.

I also had the opportunity to be involved in training volunteers, gaining an understanding of how important their role is, both for the institution and the conservators.

When I return to Chawton House Library in February, I will help to implement the findings of the survey, seeing first hand how a project develops step by step. The experience will further improve my skills in training volunteers: an invaluable asset as their contribution is essential to the preservation of any collection.

And once the job has been done… I will enjoy my time in the lovely English countryside with a cup of tea and a fruit scone, only to improve my knowledge of English culture of course!


To find out more about conserving the unique library collection at Chawton House Library, register for our evening talk with Caroline Bendix on Thursday 12th February.