A Peek Into the TSLAC Conservation Lab

Texas State Library & Archives, Austin, TX

While in Austin for Preservation Week, I enjoyed a peek into the newly-outfitted Conservation Lab of the Texas State Library & Archives Commission.  Conservator Sarah Norris gave me a tour, and shared the trials and tribulations of purchasing equipment and designing creative storage solutions for the newly constructed space.

Conservator Sarah Norris of TSLAC in her lab.

When she started her position at TSLAC, the lab contained a sink, a fume hood, and built-in cabinets with deskspace underneath.  Sarah’s careful planning, diligent research, and judicious purchases have transformed this small (598 square ft.) lab into a beautiful and efficient workspace.

The countertop in the foreground is a custom-built cover for the washing sink.

The countertop in this photo is actually a custom-built cover for the stainless steel washing sink.  With the countertop in place, Sarah gains significant flat workspace.  When larger items need washing, the countertop can be lifted off (a 2-person task!) to allow access to the sink.

Crimper and wall-mounted rolls of Melinex.

In keeping with the black, gray, and red color scheme, Sarah spray-painted the crimper red to match the board shear and fume hood.  Another way Sarah saved valuable labspace was to mount her rolled supplies (bookcloth, Melinex) on the wall. She also chose to mount her water conditioning system high enough on the wall to leave the counterspace beneath it usable.

Bright, natural light streams in from the windows, illuminating the moveable suction table with humidity dome. The red fume hood is visible on the back wall.

Wherever possible, tables and equipment are mounted on casters, so they can be pushed around in the most convenient configuration for a given project.

Sarah also kept her workspace in mind when considering her workflow.  She intakes items for treatment on a monthly basis and sticks to a one-month turn-around, so she never has to store large amounts of collection material in her work area.

I was very impressed by the thought and care that went into both the equipping and layout of the TSLAC lab, as well as Sarah’s approach to treatment workflow, and will be taking some of these helpful tips back to our  lab at ISU.


  1. wow i am greatly challenged, thats a lovely Lab, i might need some tips to set up ours at the SWaziland national Archives.

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