Press Release: West Dean College appoints new Head of School of Conservation

West Dean College has appointed Shayne Rivers MA (RCA), born in Sydney and a world renowned expert in the conservation of furniture and Asian lacquer, as Head of Conservation. Rivers joins the College after 16 years at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, where she was Senior Conservator, responsible for collections care and conservation. This is a new role for the College which attracts an international student body, including students from Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Rivers began her furniture conservation training at West Dean in 1991 and completed an MA, specialising in furniture and decorative surfaces, at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1998.

Widely published, with an acknowledged reputation for high quality research, Rivers co-edited and contributed to Conservation of Furniture (2003), now considered the definitive text in the field. In 2011 she was a contributing co-editor for the book East Asian Lacquer: Material Culture, Science, Conservation, which incorporated groundbreaking articles by Rivers on the deterioration and conservation of Japanese lacquer. She has also authored more than 15 conservation-related peer-reviewed articles on subjects as wide ranging as casein plastic, cross-cultural ethics and painted surfaces.

"I am delighted to join West Dean College, which has an outstanding international reputation for producing highly skilled ceramics, clocks, books, metals and furniture conservators," says Rivers. "I intend to strengthen our existing courses, expand the range of courses on offer to meet changing demands in the heritage sector and develop collaborative research partnerships that ensure West Dean College remains at the forefront of conservation education."

From 2005 - 2010 Rivers had an advisory role for five chemistry, mechanical engineering and conservation PhDs at Imperial College London, Loughborough University and the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts Conservation. A recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) case study that included one of these PhDs achieved a 3* rating 'with aspects of outstanding impact'. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Imperial College and is an external PhD Supervisor with the University of Arts, London. "This is a strategic appointment intended to ensure that West Dean continues to be at the forefront of conservation in the UK and internationally. Shayne will be key in developing our Collections Care and Management programme over the next year and in the longer term, implementing the school's research strategy," says Francine Norris, Director of Education.

West Dean College is internationally renowned for teaching in Conservation and 89% of students stated reputation was the reason they chose to study at the College. Conservation students gain hands-on experience working on unique and often rare objects from acclaimed collections. Many graduates go on to work in some of the world's finest institutions, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, National Maritime Museum, The British Museum and Imperial War Museum, or establish their own conservation practice.

In recognition of the increasing difficulties in funding for postgraduate education the College offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships for talented students who would not otherwise be able to study at West Dean College.

Full information and funding options are in the prospectus at


Notes to editors

  • West Dean College is part of The Edward James Foundation, an educational charitable trust established in 1964, also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry Studio. Charity No. 1126084.
  • Rivers, S and Umney, N. 2003 Conservation of Furniture Routledge Series in Conservation and Museology
  • Rivers, S., Faulkner, R. and Pretzel, B. 2011 East Asian Lacquer: Material Culture, Science and Conservation Archetype Books
  • The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.
  • All photography is copyright free for editorial purposes.
  • West Dean College is situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.

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