ECPN Specialty Training Series with Lyudmyla Bua

By Annabelle Camp posted 08-14-2019 09:48


To promote awareness and a clearer understanding of different pathways into specializations that require particular training, the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) is conducting a series of interviews with conservation professionals in these specialties. We began the series with East Asian Art conservation, Electronic Media Group (EMG) and continued with practitioners in AIC’s Wooden Artifact Group (WAG). Now we are interviewing conservation professionals working in Libraries and Archives, which can include anything from paper prints to death masks to medieval manuscripts. We’ve asked our interviewees to share some thoughts about their career paths, which we hope will inspire emerging conservation professionals and provide valuable insight into these areas of our professional field.

For our first interview from the Library and Archive series, we spoke with Lyudmyla Bua, currently a Book Conservator at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. 

 Evaluating the condition of a vellum binding at NYU

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I hold an Associate degree in Applied Science in Fine Arts from Fashion Institute of Technology SUNY and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History with a minor in Chemistry from Hunter College CUNY. In 2017, I received a Master of Arts with a Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation at the SUNY Buffalo State College with a concentration in Library and Archives conservation, in which I am focusing on book conservation. Thus far, I have treated a variety of bound materials, including scrapbooks, circulating collections, and rare book collections, as well as flat materials found in archival collections. Collectively, I have experience working with institutions in New York City, and outside the NYC area that contributes to my continuing education in Preservation and Conservation.

How were you first introduced to conservation, and why did you decide to pursue conservation?

Since my senior year of high school, I have wanted to study art conservation. During an early visit to my home country of Ukraine, my parents introduced my sister and me to its rich cultural history. We visited one of the most beautiful historical sites in Ukraine, the Saint Sophia Cathedral and its Monastic buildings at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Its golden domes were enchanting. I was awestruck by the intricately designed interiors. The enduring beauty of the magnificently painted murals, having been discernibly restored to their original appearance, was captivating and this brought into focus the interconnectedness of both art and science. This visit sparked an interest in art conservation and excitement that persists to this day. 

Of all specializations, what contributed to your decision to pursue Library and Archives conservation.

Of all the areas of conservation to which I have been exposed, working with paper and books have been the most exciting, inspiring, and satisfying. I came to a decision to pursue Library and Archives conservation when I took several introductory bookbinding workshops in NYC. The workshops opened up a whole new career opportunity. The challenge of creating a historical book structure allowed me to work with my hands which I always enjoyed doing. The structural and mechanical action of books combined with conservation and preservation ended up being the perfect amalgam for me.

What has been your training pathway?  Please list any universities, apprenticeships, technical experience, and any related jobs or hobbies.

As a pre-program student, I gained my training at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, UCLA Library, and various private practices throughout the NYC metropolitan area. During my graduate years at Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department, I completed my first-year summer internship at the University of Iowa Libraries Conservation Lab. I concluded my graduate studies with a twelve-month internship at the Conservation Department of NYU Libraries.

I see myself as someone who loves to work with book structures, I strive to immerse myself in the study of various bookbinding techniques. I studied with Alexis Hagadorn over the course of the six-week Book Structures Practicum at the Columbia University Butler Library. I continued my studies at the Montefiascone Project, The Summer School of Conservation and Preservation in Italy, where I attended a series of workshops over the course of four weeks focusing on historical bookbinding structures. In total, over the course of that summer, I made twenty-one book models during a ten-week period. Through this, I gained a more in-depth understanding of the structures of many historical binding techniques.

Are there any particular skills that you feel are important or unique to your discipline?

Strong hand-skills, practicing bookbinding skills, learning historic book structures. Keeping yourself updated on the current practices in book and paper conservation.

What are some of your current projects, research, or interests?

Currently, I work at the Center for Jewish History as a Book Conservator. My goal at this point in my career is to develop my hand-skills and learn as much as possible from those around me, as well as attending career developing workshops and conferences. 

In your opinion, what is an important research area or need in your specialization?

Although conservators are turning away from in-depth treatments of objects, I believe it is still very important to maintain our hand-skills and to learn invasive treatment procedures. Even if they are not widely practiced, it’s important to be able to recognize them. 

Do you have any advice for prospective emerging conservators who would like to pursue this specialization?

My advice for prospective emerging conservators who would like to pursue this specialization is to find internships at institutions but also keep in-mind developing your hand-skills through workshops. Working with conservators in private practice is also a great way to learn more in-depth treatments. In my experience, treatments in private practice tend to be more hands-on, which gives you a chance to develop skills. Be patient. There will be a lot of nay-sayers; you will have to power through.