West Dean Alumni Association

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Keep connected with West Dean College and stay up to date with past and present students. Regular alumni newsletters detail what students are now doing in the world of conservation and visual arts.

Update your details: email admissions@westdean.org.uk or call 01243 818291

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If you would like help finding a friend, a classmate or a tutor from West Dean College please contact the Registry Office on admissions@westdean.org.uk or 01243 818291.

Recent Alumni

Recent alumni discuss working at the Smithsonian Library, the British Museum, a BBC interview and more...

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 mark - http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/interviews/interview/1000501/

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 event.

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."

Lynn Nicholls - an adventure in Xilitla. Creative writing 2011-2014

"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 www.lynninxilitla.wordpress.com

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