When you graduate from West Dean College you become a member of an alumni network with international reach. Staying connected can help you develop professional links to support your career and further your practice.
Three times a year our alumni eNewsletter catches up with what some of your fellow alumni are now doing, keeps you in the loop with exhibitions, events and College news, and offers a glimpse of current student projects. To ensure you receive alumni news (including exhibitions and opportunities), or to share your alumni news story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01243 818291
Conservation Graduates have gone on to work at institutions including:
Christine McNair, London Metropolitan Archives, MA Conservation Alumnus
After my MA in Conservation Studies, I began a journeyman period where I worked a series of contracts as a book conservator for the London Metropolitan Archives (UK), the Archives of Ontario, Library and Archives Canada, private studios, and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI). I was hired permanently as the sole book conservator at CCI in 2011.
CCI is a special agency of Canadian Heritage whose mandate includes treating artefacts of significance from collections across Canada and the dissemination of conservation information through workshops, publications, and responding to public inquiries. We are also a research institute with conservation scientists that study methods and materials in conservation.
It is a wonderful job. In many respects, it reminds me of my time at West Dean, as there are conservators from many disciplines: textiles, works of art on paper, photographs, fine arts, objects, furniture, metals, heritage interiors, and archaeology. And we sometimes collaborate on cross-disciplinary artefacts or consult on each other's materials. There are also preservation specialists that advise on topics such as exhibition, storage, risk management, and disaster response. We work with conservation scientists as well on projects of interest and occasionally assisting with their research in our areas of study.
I love that I have the opportunity to teach and to influence book conservation on a national scale. There are no formal book conservation training programs in Canada which is increasingly concerning as the few senior book conservators retire. In my position, I hope to continuously work on my own professional development in order to help shape the younger generation of book conservators that are needed in Canada.
"On leaving West Dean in 2012 I was fortunate to be offered an HLF Skills for the Future Internship in organic conservation at Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG). This site incorporates the National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory, Queen's House and Cutty Sark. This was a wonderful opportunity, working under the guidance of Glen Smith, a fellow West Dean Alumni, on a wide range of objects including furniture, clock cases, a broad spectrum of ethnographic and marine related objects and, of course, ship models.
On completing my internship I had a brief interlude as a Conservation and Engagement Manager, with the National Trust, before being offered a permanent position back with RMG two years ago. Since then I have progressed from assistant organic conservator to a conservator role which now encompasses organics and preventive.
As a museum we are on an exciting journey of large capital projects which has included the renovation of the Queen's House, the ongoing build of a new conservation and collections centre to maximise our public engagement potential and the redevelopment of a wing of the Maritime Museum to include four new permanent galleries. The role is diverse, demanding but always rewarding."
Spotted in New York West Dean College alumni, Dorothy Cheng, doing a spot of cleaning. Dorothy who graduated from the college's Metalwork Conservation, MA last year is on a 10-week internship with the New York City parks department's Citywide Monuments Conservation Program.
Read the full story of Dorothy's internship in New York here.
Photograph: Courtesy The Wall Street Journal
William Bennett at the Smithsonian Library. Conservation of Books and Library Materials 2012-2014
William returned to the US and his home near Washing, DC, after graduating from West Dean College. Starting in January 2014, he began a contract position as a conservator with Gale Cengage, an e-learning company that coordinates digitization efforts with various institutions in order to create digital collections that can be used to supplement university coursework.
Working onsite at the Smithsonian Libraries (the library arm of the US national museums), the position involved assessing collections pulled for digitization, treating items in need of intervention, supervising scanners vis-à-vis handling of items, and coordinating logistics. This eventually led to a permanent position in August 2014 at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, which houses records of the Smithsonian from its inception to the present, where William participates in treatments, environmental monitoring, collection assessments, and outreach efforts to the public.
Elizabeth Belcher, Conservation of Ceramics and Related Materials 2010-2011.
"After leaving West Dean College I went on to work for a year at the British Museum in a collection management position. Here I was able to add onto the skills and knowledge I gained whilst at West Dean, to not only carry out basic conservation, but to care for the art collection through handling, packing for travel, creating functional and safe mounts, installing and rotating exhibitions, and addressing storage issues.
I now have returned to the US where I work as a collections manager and conservator for a large corporate art collection. I am responsible for developing access programmes and installing exhibitions throughout four large corporate buildings within the city, creating a conservation lab from the ground up, preforming basic cleaning and repairs on objects which are both historic and modern, and developing photography and a database for a long neglected art collection.
I hope to soon be able to start a local association for art carers within the corporate world so that we may possibly develop an exchange programme for our collections, assist each other with emergency planning, and provide advice to each other on daily care."
Mary French discusses naked scientists. Conservation of Books and Library Materials 2011-2013
'I'm am working on the Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection and am
working on Hebrew manuscript fragments from Egypt, many of which
are about 1,000 years old. Really exciting stuff! Lucy Cheng,
another West Dean books graduate, and I were recently interviewed
for a programme on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire called the Naked
Scientists. We talked about the conservation techniques that we use
for the Genizah fragments. The podcast can be found here and our segment starts at the 31:26
Tiago Oliviera faces his fears. Conservation of Ceramics and Related Materials 2010-2012
"My degree from West Dean led me to investigate whether a stone
mortar used in conservation in the UK could be applied to the
conservation of Portuguese historic tiles - Azulejos. This link
between my studies in the UK and my roots in Portugal had always
been my goal. I gave a talk at my previous university in Porto,
Escola das Artes, Universidade Católica Portuguesa called
Conservation of Architectural Decorative Arts. It was rewarding,
though a bit scary, to have feedback from conservators at the
I talked at the ICON Positive Futures in an Uncertain World conference in Glasgow about a project I started at West Dean and have written about here. I was always encouraged to speak in public when at West Dean and, despite public speaking giving me sleepless nights, I am keen to continue doing so. Recently I have been accepted to a HLF/ICON internship at Sarah Peek's Ltd. Conservation Studio. I will be doing what I came to the UK to study and work on-ceramics and glass conservation-restoration. The diverse portfolio I was able to build up while a student plus the good teaching at West Dean helped when applying for this internship."
Martin Cuffe, Making Musical Instruments, 2013 - 2014
"I now work as an instrument repairer at JP Guivier in London; it is the oldest violin shop in the country and is highly respected in the field for its repairs and set up of violin, viola and cello. We have a number of very well-known clients who have their instruments serviced and maintained in our workshop. JP Guivier is a great workshop to be in, as we get to see and work on some very important instruments, and also get a great variety of jobs so it's never a dull day."
Šárka Darton, MFA, July 2015
Šárka was involved in the eighth edition of the Woman's Art World event at in The National Museum of Marrakech, Morocco. As well as exhibiting her installation, What is the Red Thread? (2016), which combined materials such as steel, silk, paper, pencil and print, Šárka contributed to art classes for homeless children and helped tutor at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Visuels Marrakech. An additional project brief was also completed, with the resultant work also shown at the Museum and subsequently donated to raise money for homeless charities.
Pippa Blake, Postgraduate Diploma Visual Arts, July 2005
Pippa Blake, had a series of paintings on display at the Garden Gallery at Pallant House from May - June 2016. Entitled Someone who'll watch over me, the paintings were developed created during Pippa's residency at Chichester Festival Theatre, working in response to the play 'Someone who'll watch over Me'.
Lotti V Closs, MFA, July 2014
Lotti V Closs is the winner of the 2014 SYSON prize from Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery's annual Open exhibition, and will be presenting MASS, a solo exhibition of work at the Syson Gallery, Nottingham, from Saturday 16 May - 11 June. Lotti Closs completing her MFA at West Dean College where she was awarded Distinction and received the Vice Chancellor's award for exceptional performance. Last year she was also elected as a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and is currently part of Sun Screen - an online project commissioned by the East Midlands Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale.
Lynn Nicholls - an adventure in Xilitla. Creative
"Just before Christmas 2011, I learned I had been awarded a scholarship to visit Xilitla as writer in residence. At that time I couldn't even pronounce the word - try it - he-lit-la and throw the first syllable up to the roof of your mouth. Edward James made his home there, building his surreal gardens over a 40 year period from the 1940s to the 1980s. In the summer of 2012 I spent a month staying at the house he lived in, when he wasn't sleeping outside in his beloved jungle. It is still owned by the Gasteleum family, and run by Plutaco Gastelum's daughter, who grew up calling Edward James 'Uncle Edward'. The house is extraordinary, well named El Castillo, it is rambling, huge, eccentric and beautiful and full of surprises. I spent a lot of time writing on the various terraces, and cooling off in the pool. Whilst there I experienced several tropical storms, had my senses completely soaked in vibrant colour, ate guacamole, enchiladas and eggs fried with chillies, drank gallons of Coca-Cola (which together with Camey soap and Kellogg's cornflakes has made its way up the mountains), made lots of friends, wrote a series of short stories, which I called Postcards from Xilitla and got bitten by a venomous spider!
Xilitla is beautiful, exotic and unlike anywhere else you would see. I kept a travel blog which you can still read." Read my travel blog here.
View the Visual Arts Blog for up to date Alumni news.