Press Release: Creative solutions allow conservation students at West Dean College to experience placements with a difference

- Students work with New York’s Corning Museum in their first virtual work placement -    

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When lockdown looked set to put a pause on external placements for MA Conservation Studies students at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, the College benefitted from several creative solutions, enabling students to continue to gain valuable work experience. Students specialising in Ceramics and Related Materials undertook an online work placement for five weeks with The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, USA - the online placement was the first of its kind for both the Museum and the Programme.   

Students communicated regularly with conservation colleagues and those from departments across the Museum. They shared presentations, assignments, group discussions, tasks and advice over Microsoft Teams, offering insights into professional practice, skills development and the roles within the Museum as well as incredibly supportive one-to-one tutorials.  

One task involved Roman archaeological glass objects donated for the task to be assessed during the placement. Conservation treatments were considered and discussed among the team of students and Museum staff. 

As Lorna Calcutt, Subject Tutor, Ceramics and Related Materials at West Dean College explained: “It was a great privilege that our students at West Dean College were chosen as a pilot for the Museum's online placement scheme instigated by the pandemic. We are extremely grateful to the staff and colleagues at The Corning Museum of Glass for their time, commitment and enthusiasm to support our students so effectively on this placement.” 

Another creative opportunity for students specialising in Books, Ceramics and Metals was to undertake their placement at the College itself and benefit from unparalleled access to the West Dean Collection. Students worked closely with the Collections team and were tasked with condition reporting, surveying, documenting and cataloguing items; with unique access to various significant objects in the collection. Books students conducted a detailed survey of the College’s William Beckford Book Collection, discussing everything from bindings to the ethics of collecting. They then went on to conduct a sample survey of the House Collection, which includes some rare 16th century editions.  

Rose Zhou, MA Conservation Studies - Ceramics and Related Materials, commented: “While the pandemic situation impeded our original plan to do external work placements, it offers us a chance to have a peek into the fantastic Collection at the College, which has such great educational value, and is yet to be further explored. For me as a ceramics conservation student, it’s the first opportunity for me to carry out a condition survey and to work on objects within an historic house context. While archival materials and various mounting systems from original display settings linked the objects with the history of the house and the family, the objects themselves also tell their own stories through body type, design, labels, and old repairs. Although the work placement started tentatively, it really benefited me with experiences that I would otherwise not acquire. I really appreciated our Collections team, who spared no effort to make this experience worthwhile for us.” 

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students regularly work with material from the College’s amazing Collection and Archive within pathway workshops. For Conservation and Fine Art study opportunities, see www.westdean.ac.uk. For Conservation Studies specialisms including Ceramics, Clocks, Furniture and Metalwork applications are open now for September 2021 study.   

Please note that the Archive is currently closed to the public.

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Notes to Editors:

  • West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was founded in 1971 by the poet and Surrealist patron, Edward James, recognised by BBC Arts as the ‘the greatest patron of art of the early 20th century’. 
  • The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084), also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.  
  • All photography is free to use 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. 
  • The Corning Museum of Glass is the foremost authority on the art, history, science, and design of glass. It is home to the world’s most important collection of glass, including the finest examples of glassmaking spanning 3,500 years.  


For all media enquiries please contact Rachel Aked:  
Email: rachel.aked@westdean.org.uk 
Telephone: 07790 732448 

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QZ