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Thursday, May 16 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
15. The Leather Discussion Group: A Group Effort to Understand the Material Properties of All Leathers, Both Old and New

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Group members: William Minter, Senior Book Conservator, The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Kristi Wright, Contract Book Conservator, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine Katie Wagner, Book Conservator, Smithsonian Libraries Holly Herro, Senior Conservator, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine

The Leather Discussion Group was formed in 2016 by a few book conservators to acquire a better understanding of leather and the leather dyes traditionally used in conservation. The initial goals were to determine the best products available to meet the needs of conservation, to make those needs more apparent to leather manufacturers, and to identify effective methods to evaluate a skin’s quality and longevity.

Monthly conference calls have provided the groundwork to meet the goals. Numerous unused skins and discarded leather-covered boards have been collected for various tests. Some tests are similar to those established by other researchers, and others are new tests identified by scientists at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI).

Additional experiments are designed: To evaluate storage environments; To determine the impact of treatment materials and methods; To understand the influence of mechanized tanning processes; To examine dye permanence and its effect on leather’s longevity, and an evaluation and identification of any associated health concerns when using dyes, consolidants, and other treatments.

The discussion group has recently established a relationship with leather researchers in the European Union to further understand leather and its aging properties.

In 2017, an initial survey was sent to conservators and tanners to gather information on current leather practices and additional research needs. The survey remains available online. Ongoing conversations with leather chemists, tanners, and conservators in other disciplines continues to provide valuable feedback. During AIC’s 2018 pre-conference symposium entitled “The Current Use of Leather in Conservation,” the group gave a panel presentation that covered the need for a greater understanding of leather, as well as a providing a summary of previous leather research, and an introduction to both proposed and in-process testing.

In the poster, the group will provide updates on the testing progress, summarize responses to the surveys, and ask for further input from the conservation community.”

Co-Author
avatar for Holly Herro

Holly Herro

Conservator, National Library of Medicine (NIH)
Holly Herro is the Senior Conservator at the National Library of Medicine on the National Institutes of Health campus in Maryland. She has been involved in conservation as a book and manuscripts conservator for over twenty-five years and was apprenticed to Tom Albro, retired Head... Read More →
avatar for Katie C. Wagner

Katie C. Wagner

Conservator, Smithsonian Libraries
Katie Wagner is a rare book conservator for the Smithsonian Libraries. She works primarily with the two special collections libraries: The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library and The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology as well as with the other branches of the Smithsonian... Read More →
avatar for Kristi Wright

Kristi Wright

Book & Paper Conservator, Wright Conservation & Framing
Kristi Wright, MLIS, is a Book and Paper Conservator under contract with the History of Medicine Division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.


Thursday May 16, 2019 3:30pm - 4:00pm EDT
Uncas Ballroom Foyer Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun