Using specific skills and expertise to innovate

Ten years ago at the age of 80, John Day joined the Book Conservation Team of Heritage Volunteers at the Bartlett Library of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC). This is a reference library and contains a core collection of some 19,000 maritime books, many rare and valuable. Immediately on joining the team at the Bartlett Library, John’s skill in technical design was recognised and it was not long before he started designing prototypes, and then making customised internal and external bookshoes. These are supports for the safe storage of fragile and delicate books and ledgers.

Caroline Bendix (Independent Book Conservator and Trainer for NADFAS) was so impressed with his design that now it is included as a recommended technique in the NADFAS Book Conservation Training Programme. His contribution was also recognised in an article in the NADFAS Review Summer Supplement in 2013 and his photograph appears on one of the NADFAS Heritage Volunteer posters. John is a gentle but exacting tutor, having prepared a detailed set of instructions to ensure that all his trainees all are able to execute his designs to the highest standards. In addition to the construction of bookshoes, he has also designed and made customised lidded boxes for documents, magazine racks for periodicals and has continued in his meticulous way to contribute to the general work of the team in book conservation.

For 10 years the NMMC Librarians have utilised his skill to a great advantage, ensuring the safe storage of valuable and much used reference books and documents, thus providing considerable financial saving for the museum from having to purchase commercially produced items. John will be 90 in spring of this year and he still enjoys his volunteering work but is now beginning to find driving difficult. We are therefore delighted that, with the approval of NADFAS and the NMMC, he will continue with his bookshoe and box construction work from home thus ensuring that this valuable talent will not be lost. Rare books that might have been removed from public access are now adequately protected and can continue to be seen and referred to by library users.


Volunteering stories