Conservation Stations at HOD: Live treatments on books at Aston Reading Room

Icon member Solange Masher will be running a Conservation Station during Heritage Open Days

29 Aug 2023

Icon is working with Heritage Open Days to raise awareness of the work of conservators, particularly through matching local sites with experts.

Conservation Stations are being set up across the country for Heritage Open Days, where the public will be able to learn about the important work conservators do.



Conservation Station at Aston Reading Room

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Aston Reading Room, Aughton Lane, Aston, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S26 2AN

Saturday 9 September: 1000-1600

Display of local history documents, maps and photos. History of community and lives of servicemen in two World Wars. Research of graves in the churchyard and Aston Hall links to Capability Brown. Research into mining fatalities in local collieries.

This year we will be welcoming Solange Masher, a Book Conservator who has a studio in Sheffield. She will be in the Reading Room on Saturday 9th September carrying out live treatments on books, pamphlets and ephemera that are suffering from tears and general wear and tear. There will also be a slide show about conservation.

Find out more and book here.


Icon member Solange Masher introduces her Conservation Station at Aston Reading Room:

I will be running a pop-up conservation demonstration at the heritage open day at William Layne Reading Room, Aston. The event is hosted by the remarkably active Aston-cum-Aughton History Group.

The building originally opened as a school in 1743, but served several different purposes before falling into disrepair in the 20th century. It was restored in 1999 thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and now provides a beautiful setting for local events.

The history group is active in researching and recording local history and on the day will put on a display of local history documents, maps and photos. These will include history of community and lives of servicemen in two world wars. Research of graves in the churchyard and Aston Hall's links to Capability Brown. 

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During the open day, I will demonstrate some basic conservation work on archival items belonging to individuals from the history group, and talk to visitors about conservation.

I will particularly focus on how individuals can care for our own archival items as I think this event highlights the value of preserving the histories of everyday people and communities. All the objects I'll work on have personal meaning to their owners and include such items as birth certificates and pocket diaries from war-time service. 

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I recently set up my business Liber Conservation to do freelance book and archives conservation because I needed more flexibility as a parent of young children.

I was first drawn to conservation when I began bookbinding as a hobby and met some bookbinders who said that they also did a lot of restoration work. I was lucky enough to spend eighteen months as a trainee at PZ Conservation at the studio of Lizzie Neville ACR where I completed Icon's technician qualification.

Working in that setting gave me the experience of the freelance world and influenced my preferences for what my future career would be like. I went on to study for the Conservation Masters degree at the University of the Arts London (UAL) where I specialised in books and archives.

That was followed by a stint on the Qatar digitisation project at the British Library before working at The University of Manchester as a conservator for five years. 

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I have only been running the business a short time so I haven't settled yet into a clear idea of what a 'day in the life' looks like, or it may be that variety is the nature of the game.

I have a rule that I always start the day by doing bench work or something practical. I only go on the computer after lunch when I have less energy.

I have enjoyed the change in approach that freelance demands, which for me means doing more practical treatment which I love. I have embraced stepping out of my comfort zone by working on more flat iems than I used to, and recently I have been asked to look at the leather on some scabbards... the top drawer of my plan chest is full of African daggers! 


See Solange in action during Heritage Open Days at Aston Reading Room.


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