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Books and Library Materials

Students come from all over the world to West Dean to learn the skills to become professional book conservators. All our students work on books and related materials from historical collections, have access to workshops 7am to 10pm seven days a week and a personal workbench, with areas for conservation, treatments, science, finishing, sharpening, secure storage, and bookbinding.

"I have particularly loved learning from fellow students in other programmes: investigating metalwork, woodworking, pottery, and musical instrument making.”
Alex Brooks, Books and Library Materials student

"As part of a community of conservators our students have access to expertise in parallel disciplines of conservation and are able to give and receive professional advice on a broad range of material types, both organic and inorganic.”
David Dorning, Programme Leader

Recent Project: Jane Austen Manuscript

Read the project case study in the 2015 prospectus and watch the BBC coverage.

Graduate Diploma, one academic year – University of Sussex award

Learn how to assess and record the condition of books to produce a complete record of work. Develop a repertoire of conservation treatments for books ranging from simple enclosure, to repair and reinstatement of the parts.

  • Library and archive collections and their materials
  • The history of papermaking
  • Materials science
  • Storage and environmental issues
  • leather and image materials.
  • Visit collections and their conservation requirements and facilities.

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 books.

English language:
CEFR (Common European Framework of
Reference for Languages) level B1 or ILETS 6.0

View the course documentsAdobe Acrobat

Postgraduate Diploma, one academic year – University of Sussex award

Through practical work you will undertake critical analysis of conservation treatments. Learn to research through practice to make and present an accurate model of a historical book structure. Study exhibition issues, metal components of books, paper conservation, disaster response and materials science. A six-week work placement in a conservation workshop, either in a public institution or a private workshop.

Entry requirements
Complete West Dean’s Graduate Diploma in the Conservation of Books and Library Materials, or appropriate relevant experience, and a degree in a relevant subject.

Both diplomas have an end-of-year exhibition of your work, supported by your portfolio.

English language:
CEFR (Common European Framework of
Reference for Languages) level B1 or ILETS 6.0

View the course documentsAdobe Acrobat

MA Conservation Studies, one calendar year – University of Sussex award

All Postgraduate Diplomas at West Dean can be transferred to the MA Degree programmes, extending your study from one academic year to a full calendar year. In February, students on postgraduate programmes start MA units in addition to the remainder of their Postgraduate Diploma. On successful completion of the full academic year in July, students have finished their Postgraduate Diploma and completed a significant amount of MA introductory study. In July, students start their major projects for the MA degree which involves a further 10-weeks full-time study with final assessment in September.

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

Your tutors

Programme Leader, David Dorning MA ACR is a specialist in book and paper conservation, which he teaches alongside materials science, at West Dean and other institutions. An accredited member of ICON and a Fellow of IIC, he worked at Warwick County Archives and Coventry City Archives, before West Dean College. David has an MA in Conservation Studies from the University of Sussex.

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

Associate Tutor, Abigail Bainbridge MA
Abigail worked in the book conservation lab at Columbia University and as a freelance conservator at Paper Dragon Books in New York City. She has an MA in Conservation Studies from West Dean College and a BFA in Printmaking and Art History with a concentration in Book Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Research interests include non-destructive analysis of degraded paper.

Programme Adviser
, Jane Eagan, Book Conservator Oxford Colleges Conservation Consortium.

Visiting lecturers include: Ann-Marie Miller, Book Conservator Kristine Rose and Book Conservator Bridget Mitchell.

A career in Conservation
West Dean students have gone on to work on books at The Bodleian Library, Oxford, Admiralty Library, Portsmouth, Wimborne Minster Library, Chichester Cathedral Library Collection, the Dutch National Archive and others.

MA Collections Care and Management

MA Collections Care and Management (Subject to validation)

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Graduates have gone on to work as conservation professionals in museums and libraries, working with public and private collections both nationally and internationally. Some pursue a career path into collections care and management. Others work as independent book conservators.

To find out more call our Academic Office + 44 (0)1243 818 291. Email us at diplomas@westdean.org.uk

Related information

Download a Prospectus

Download a Prospectus

Conservation Blog

Conservation Blog