The Thompson Conservation Laboratory has been in operation since 1976. Norman Rockwell and Rockwell Kent? I've restored their art, including original pencil sketches. Alcatraz? Burt Lancaster raised some birds there; Clint Eastwood escaped; Sean Connery made quite a mess. I've helped set up an environmental monitoring system and analyse the results for the National Park Service. When Lincoln Cathedral agreed to lend Magna Carta to America for a nation-wide tour, they selected the lab to design the environmental and security systems, and to watch over it during the year it was on our side of the Atlantic.
    Sometimes, medieval and renaissance books need a little bit of help moving on to inform the next generation. The lab provides that help. We do NOT use kiln dried oak boards from the lumberyard or coffin maker; we harvest and quarter split the oak with mallet and froe, and it is then air dried. It takes about 6 years to go from stump to shelf. The manufacture of parchment/vellum and alum tawed skins is also done here; I've designed and built a papermill on the old plan. Overshot waterwheel, camshaft, and hammers. 

    The newsprint your morning paper was printed upon was produced in a matter of minutes on a machine which makes paper at the rate of so many miles per hour; my papermill takes about 40 hours to produce a load of paper pulp from rags. Each load makes 20-30 sheets of 12" X 18" paper. Then the paper has to be made and sized and dried. This paper will last longer than your morning newspaper. Trust me on this. Costs a little more.... 

    Art on paper, including Asian screens and scrolls, and more are restored here. 

    If you would like to learn how to do some of these things, videotapes are available from Istor Productions; The Caber Press publishes texts about the history of science and technology, Japanese lacquer manufacture, papermaking, 16th c. wine making, 19th c. beer and ale making, and much more. 

    The lab also conducts condition surveys for museums, libraries, and corporate art collections, performs scientific analysis, and provides a reference service, using our 4,000+ volume research library. 


    Once a year, most years, in the panhandle of Idaho, I teach a workshop about the Technology of the Medieval Book. In two weeks a person is introduced to the growing, harvesting and processing of flax, the manufacture of thread and paper; splitting oak and processing it to make wooden boards for books; manufacture of parchment and alum-tawed skin, and fore edge clasps. 


    Mostly, the act of preserving the past to inform the present (and, with luck, the future) is one of quiet satisfaction. The time at the bench is the quiet part. Sometimes the tools are no longer readily available and it becomes necessary to make them. That is where the forge comes in. Hot coals, hot iron, hammers and anvils, and a lot of noise. Different muscles are used, and another part of the mind is exercised. 
Thompson Conservation Laboratory
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, OR 97217
503/735-3942 (voice/fax)