MA Collections Care and Conservation Management 2016 - 2018

Alex Foster

Conservator | Access & Participation

What is your current role, and what project(s) are you working on?

From February 2020, I was Assistant House Steward (Sabbatical Cover) at West Dean College. The team is working on developing an online catalogue to showcase both the Collection & Archive, a ‘decolonialisation project’ involving culturally sensitive items, as well as creating key collections management policies and plans necessary to be awarded Museum Accreditation. I completed an audit of West Dean’s standards of collections management, evaluated the risks of leaving standards unchanged, and have been working on establishing our policy framework, along with improving data recording and analysis procedures for temperature, relative humidity and pests.

From October this year I’ve started an entirely new role at the college, as Access and Participation Officer. Over the last year or so I’ve been building on my experience of advocating for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), particularly regarding disability rights. This role is an excellent opportunity to better embed good EDI practice at West Dean. I will be working on producing an outcome focused Access and Participation Policy and Plan, as well as continuing to build on our successful outreach projects in collaboration with organisations such as the National Saturday Club and Outside In.

What do you consider your biggest professional achievement to date?

Realising that I have a lot of transferable skills, thanks in a large part to my masters, but also from my own lived experience other than this. These can apply to a lot of different jobs, both inside and outside the heritage sector. As many will know, getting a job within the field is not the easiest to put it lightly, but understanding how to best communicate my skills to potential employers has proved invaluable.

How do you think the MA Collections Care and Conservation Management prepared you for what you do now?

Studying at West Dean has given me an advantage in that I’m familiar with the college and the challenges and opportunities it presents with regards providing equality of opportunity to students. I also have the experience of being a student representative and working as staff in the college, that insight will be vital in successfully engaging everyone with the process of inclusive practice, which has to be a holistic one.

Please tell us about a particular highlight of the course/your time at the College.

Learning about the latest research into preventive conservation, and getting hands-on with different problem-solving techniques with lecturers who are experts in their particular fields was a highlight for me. Some of my favourite topics include Risk Assessment, where we did a ‘Quisk Scan’ of the Tower Suite, and Salvage, where we all worked together to save some (sacrificial) flooded objects within few hours.

What would be your advice to others considering this course?

If you are in a job while studying this course, make sure it is flexible/part-time. Be committed to working in collections care, but open to using the transferable skills you gain for roles outside of the heritage sector. West Dean College is a unique place to study, make the most of the inspiring atmosphere and talk to everyone, you never know where it might lead!