Objects for teaching and learning

Objects for students in the School of Conservation

The College Conservation Studies programmes cover books, ceramics, clocks, furniture, glass, plaster and metals. Our students rely on access to a selective range of objects to develop their professional craft and conservation skills. These skills reflect both the creative ethos of College founder Edward James, and modern conservation practice. 

All work carried out here has an educational value at its core. Items to be conserved are selected for their suitability for the academic programme and their educational value to students.

Students undertake conservation work on objects for museums, heritage organisations, antiques trade and private owners. For objects that meet the criteria for the materials we work with, we advise on the options available, carry out the appropriate treatment, and recommend future care of the object.

Who performs the work?

Work on historic objects is carried out by students under the close supervision and guidance of their programme tutors and other specialist staff. All projects are accompanied by a condition report, treatment proposal and treatment report. Working on unique objects supports students to advance their skills to MA level and beyond. 

Quality of work and expertise is high, consistent with this unique hands-on learning environment, however the scheduling and completion of work is therefore tied to an educational timetable and the annual academic calendar.

Conservation services and guiding principles

We carry out condition assessment, stabilisation and cleaning through to repair and sensitive restoration respecting the integrity of our cultural heritage. All work is fully documented. Every object is unique, as is its use and context, so every treatment proposal is fully discussed with the owner and approved in advance.

Please note we do not value, authenticate or attribute historic objects.

Conservation of Books and Library Materials

We provide a conservation service for a range of books and associated materials, both manuscript and printed, focussed on the treatment of historic books and collections.

Conservation work is undertaken on leather, cloth, parchment and paper bindings, and related objects such as maps and prints.

Conservation of Metalwork

Conservation treatment is offered for a range of historic metalwork objects. The department provides sensitive and sustainable solutions for the appropriate conservation and restoration of metals. In all cases the long-term stability, future use and display of the object is discussed with the client.

Conservation of Ceramics and Related Materials

Glass, ceramics and related materials including enamel and plaster objects can be assessed and conservation treatment performed by us. We advise on items ranging from archaeological material through to contemporary objects from a broad range of contexts. We have clients from the public and private sectors and projects range from individual treatments to collections care.

Conservation - Restoration of Clocks and Related Objects

The conservation of clocks at the College is centred around the teaching and experience of hand and machine tool skills. It is informed by a professional practice-based view of the object. The clocks come to us from a variety of private and public organisations as well as collectors.

Conservation - Restoration of Furniture and Related Objects

We provide conservation of furniture and a wide range of related objects, emphasising decorative surface coatings, gilding and lost ornamental elements.

Please note:  We do not teach and therefore cannot undertake conservation of paintings, plastics, or textiles.

Contact

To discuss any object conservation proposal, please initially contact the Historic Objects Officer: 

Email: historicobjects@westdean.org.uk

Find a conservator

If your object is not suitable for our academic programme, you can find a local conservator from the Institute of Conservation (ICON). They hold a full searchable list of nationally accredited professional specialist conservators who meet ICON’s standards. Visit icon.org.uk.   

Help preserve our future

West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how you can help support us