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Books and Library Materials

The Books and library materials graduate and postgraduate programmes will prepare you for placements and work in a variety of prestigious institutes including national and international museums, archives, libraries, book conservation companies and other diverse opportunities such as working for private clients. Past students have worked on books at The Bodleian Library, Oxford, Admiralty Library, Portsmouth, Wimborne Minster Library, Chichester Cathedral Library Collection, the Dutch National Archive and others. Students are introduced to conservation via practical measures in treatments, repair and restoration of parts as well as undertaking research, disaster response and materials science including storage and environmental issues. You will be handling conservation objects from day one at your own dedicated bench, the work varied, relevant and in-depth. Full tools, craft skills and material training are part of the programme. You will also enjoy a six-week work placement in an institution or private workshop. Your work will be displayed at an end of year Private View, supported by your portfolio. Your tutors, advisers and visiting lecturers are at the top of the league in the art of book conservation and library materials, David Dorning, MA ACR, your Programme Leader, an accredited member of ICON and a Fellow of IIC.

Graduate Diploma (University of Sussex Award)

Practical Work

After the initial familiarisation with tools and materials you have the opportunity to learn, practise and adapt your skills according to the requirements of each project.This enables you to develop a repertoire of conservation treatments for books which may range from simple enclosure, repair and reinstatement to the restoration of parts. You will develop the skills required to assess and record the condition of books. These will form a complete record of work undertaken including details of discussions and decision making which provide the framework for the development of appropriate treatment strategies.

Theory and Practice

You will also study library and archive collections and their materials, history of papermaking, materials science, storage and environmental issues, leather and image materials. You will visit various collections and study their conservation requirements.

End of Year Private View

An important exibition of your work, supported by your portfolio.

Entry Requirements

Degree or qualification at equivalent level to a second year of undergraduate study e.g. HNC, HND, DipHE and significant interest in conservation and the particular material or objects you wish to conserve.

Postgraduate Diploma (University of Sussex Award)

Practical Work

You will apply professional book conservation treatments on negotiated projects and take part in decision-making. Throughout your practical work you will develop continually your ability to undertake effective critical analysis of conservation treatments.

Historical Book Structures

You will undertake research through practice in order to make and present an accurate model of a chosen historical book structure.

Conservation Theory and Practice

You will also study exhibition issues, metal components of books, paper conservation, disaster response and materials science.

Work Placement

A six-week period in a conservation environment, either in a public institution or a private workshop.

End of Year Private View

An important exibition of your work, supported by your portfolio.

Entry Requirements

Successful completion in West Dean’s Graduate Diploma in Conservation of Books and Library Materials or appropriate relevant experience or a good first degree in a relevant subject.

MA Conservation Studies/MA Design (University of Sussex Award)

All Postgraduate Diplomas at West Dean can be transferred into the MA Degree programmes, thereby extending the duration of study from one academic year to a full calendar year.Mid-way through the academic year (February), students on postgraduate programmes commence MA units in addition to the remainder of their Postgraduate Diploma.On successful completion of the full academic year (July), students will have finished their Postgraduate Diploma and completed a significant amount of MA introductory study. In July, students commence their major projects for the MA degree which involve a further 10-week period of full-time study with a final assessment towards the end of September.

Entry Requirements

Candidates registered on the postgraduate diploma in Conservation of Books and Library Materials will have fulfilled the entry requirements for the MA, subject to the negotiation of an appropriate MA project.

For further information about the MA Design please click here

Specialist Facilities

Students on the Books and Library Materials programme have their personal workbench situated in the Bindery. In addition, the department has areas for paper conservation,washing, science, finishing, sharpening and secure storage and there is a range of conservation and bookbinding equipment.A separate laboratory is available containing analytical and microscopy equipment.

Programme Leader

David Dorning MA ACR

David worked at Warwick County Archives and Coventry City Archives, before moving into Book Conservation, in which he has an MA from the University of Sussex. David is a specialist in Book and Paper Conservation which he teaches alongside his research subject, materials science, both at West Dean and other institutions. He is an accredited member of ICON and a Fellow of IIC.

Associate Tutor

Sonja Schwoll

Sonja is an independent book conservator accredited by ICON. She trained at Camberwell College of Arts, achieving an MA in Conservation.She has worked in the private and public sector in the UK and the US. Currently she runs her own studio in London and teaches book conservation at West Dean and Camberwell College of Arts.

Visiting Lecturers

Fred Bearman: Preservation Librarian, Ian Maver: Book Conservator, Lizzie Neville: Book Conservator.

Programme Advisor

Sabina Pugh
Book conservator, Bodleian Library.

Students have worked on books from the following Libraries amongst others: Chichester Cathedral Library, Collection Wimborne, Minster Library, and Admiralty Library, Portsmouth.

For student profiles please click here

To view our conservation students blog please click here


Application forms and further information on how to apply click here. An admissions panel, including a programme tutor, will consider your application and if you fulfil the entry requirements you will be invited to visit West Dean for an interview and practical test with the programme tutor and another senior member of academic staff.

ENQUIRIES: Telephone: +44 (0)1243 818208 or 811301 Email: diplomas@westdean.org.uk

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West Dean College and Gardens are situated in South East England, six miles north of the historic city of Chichester and 12 miles from the south coast.

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