In 2013 the Special Collections Department at University Library and the Ruusbroec Institute Library worked together in a basic conservation project for early printed books: Boeken EHBO/First Aid Book Conservation. The aim of this project was to check the early printed books for any damage and undertake, if necessary, basic conservation in order to prevent the books from further damages. The books were taken from the shelves and brought to a conservation workshop in the University Library, equipped especially for this purpose. One by one the books were cleaned (dry cleaning), the damage was registered, the leather bindings were treated with dressing and finally simple first aid procedures were executed (loose parts were glued back, tears in paper repaired, etc.). From March till October 2013 no fewer than 1500 early printed books were treated.
The conservation team consisted of library staff, volunteers with some experience in book restoration and students of the paper restoration course at the Artesis School in Antwerp. Marijn De Valk, independent book restorer from Middelburg (The Netherlands) coordinated the project. The project was generously funded by a private sponsor, the M.E. Belpaire Society. Regular news letters informed anybody with an interest in the project about its progress.
The Ruusbroec Institute Library decided to continue the First Aid Book Conservation activities after the end of the project, albeit on a smaller scale. At the moment two volunteers spend one morning each week in the reading room dry cleaning early printed books and making book wraps, or in the repository checking the state of the bookshelves and cleaning them. More complicated procedures are not executed, but records are kept of all books in need of more serious restoration.
Magazine Universiteit Antwerpen (August 2013) dedicated an article about this project (in Dutch): pdf - 0,5 Mb.