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Thursday, May 16 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Book and Paper) The Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme: a new look at traditional craft training

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Before there was such a thing as “book conservation”, bookbinders applied their expertise to repair and return volumes to use as an essential part of the profession. Without physical appreciation of how books have been made within their historical context, including thorough understanding of contemporary materials, best practice in book conservation-restoration is not possible but MA conservation graduates in the UK may have only fully taken apart and rebound one book during their training. Considerable time and practical experience is needed to acquire proficiency in the various aspects of hand bookbinding and book restoration, and from the middle ages the route to this was apprenticeship training whilst indentured to a master, regularised in a 1563 Act of Parliament requiring all craftsmen to serve at least seven years as an apprentice before being allowed to ply their trade. Craft and trade apprenticeships continued little changed in the UK until the mid 20th century, apart from the addition of weekly college attendance and formal examinations. However, over the following decades academic learning became prioritised over technical and vocational training, which came to be seen as second class. Rapid changes in the pattern of education resulted in a great increase in the numbers of 17-18 year olds in full-time study and this, combined with equally fast shrinking of the country’s manufacturing base, led to the decline of apprenticeships across the board. In the case of bookbinding, the rising professionalisation of conservation (in itself a good and necessary thing) played into this trend so that from the 1970s bookbinding apprenticeships died out, leaving now no rigorous UK system of training as a bookbinder. As the last generation of apprentice-trained practitioners retire and pass away, very real danger has threatened of losing the high-level skills and technical knowledge that should underpin the approach to conservation of bound material. In response, a group of charities and commercial binderies led by Royal Collection Trust has funded a seven-year pilot of a new five-year apprenticeship in hand bookbinding based in the Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle, aiming to revive the model of passing knowledge to new generations through practical work. Combined with structured teaching geared to recognised vocational qualifications, the goal of The Queen’s Bindery Apprenticeship Scheme (QBAS) is to use the best of tradition to provide solid foundations for modern conservation methods. As paid employment, it provides a realistic way of gaining depth and breadth of knowledge. QBAS was formally launched in 2016 at a reception attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Six apprentices are currently enrolled, with the first cohort due to complete the programme in 2021. Reflecting on experience gained so far, this paper will describe the syllabus and discuss the theory behind the scheme, as well as its relationship to conservation training. Too often, bookbinding and book conservation have been perceived as being at odds rather than complementary: incorporating conservation ethics and techniques into the apprenticeship as one end of a spectrum of practice intends to explicitly address and make steps to resolve this tension.

avatar for Philippa Räder-[PA]

Philippa Räder-[PA]

Head of The Royal Bindery, Royal Collection Trust, UK
I have worked in the Royal Bindery in Windsor Castle since 2003 and am both an Accredited Conservator-Restorer through the UK Institute of Conservation (Icon) and a Professional Associate member of AIC. In my current position I lead on the preservation, conservation and restoration... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 11:30am - 12:00pm EDT
Earth Ballroom A Earth Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Book and Paper