BA (Hons) Conservation: Books & Paper

This intensive course is carefully structured to enable you to progressively develop the knowledge and skills you will need to conserve and restore books and paper-related artefacts and artworks.

Our BA (Hons) Conservation graduates have enjoyed an enviable rate of employment in the professional field. Many of the Department’s alumni have gone on to work within national museum and gallery conservation departments. This includes senior conservation posts in institutions such as Birmingham Museum and Art Collections, Historic Royal Palaces, the Museum of London, the National Trust, Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, Wallace Collection and Westminster Abbey. Graduates are also employed throughout the private sector with firms such as Cliveden Conservation Workshops, Plowden and Smith, Nimbus Conservation, Taylor Pearce Conservation. Furthermore, the Books & Paper pathway can lead to excellent job opportunities working with archives and libraries.

In addition to the information below, you can also read the Course Handbook.


First year units cover a wide range of book and paper conservation specialist topics including conservation ethics, the history and philosophy of conservation, preventive conservation approaches, health and safety and legislation. Chemistry and materials science are integrated in the Conservation Science Unit along with the history of pigments, while the history of art and decorative styles runs alongside the Historic Crafts units where you will learn a range of traditional art and craft techniques related to your specialist area.

Specialist workshops in etching, bookbinding, leather tooling, paper and ink making, making pastels and crayons with traditional recipes, and marbling, will support you with conservation and restoration projects focused on printed books, parchment, manuscripts and paper artworks. You will also participate in Drawing Studio workshops involving studies from life and architectural sculpture.

At the successful conclusion of the first year you will have developed manual and observational skills, knowledge of book and paper conservation science, preventive conservation and an understanding of historical conservation techniques with some practical experience of working on book and paper conservation projects through group and individual projects.


The second year introduces you to modern book and paper conservation techniques (including the use of ultraviolet and infrared refelectography). Materials science, the theory of colour and electro-magnetic radiation, microscopy and analytical techniques using IR spectroscopy and mass-spectrometry are also integral to this level of study. The chemistry of cleaning and study of the behaviour of materials and mechanisms of their deterioration is complimented by supervised work on projects with specialist experts in the field.

Project work will include fragile painted and drawn paper artworks, illuminated books, paper-covered globes and the science involved in tanning and dyeing leather. You will learn how to make parchment and the history and science of western and eastern papers including wall papers.

Working on sites and with artefacts loaned by museums, libraries and from private collections, will enable you to explore a range of professional contexts and applications.

On completing the second year you will have further developed your book and paper conservation practice skills and theoretical knowledge and acquired an understanding of conservation project management, including contingency planning, the significance of different approaches to conservation work, and your own responsibility as a practitioner.

The Art School’s extensive links and partnerships with institutions provide many opportunities for summer work placements and projects and recent successful student placements have included: the V&A Museum; British Museum; Tate Gallery; Conservation Centre of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (Liverpool); National Gallery of Art Washington DC; National Museum in Iceland; Science Museum, London; Museum of London; Royal Palaces Collection; Natural History Museum; Watts Gallery, Smithsonian Conservation Institute,   and the Wallace Collection. Where a summer placement is not possible you will be advised on alternative summer project work.


In the third year you will undertake up to three remedial book and paper conservation projects with paper artefacts provided either by institutions such as English Heritage, St Pauls Cathedral, National Trust, Royal Collections Trust, Westminster Abbey, Wallace Collection or by private collectors. You will study the historical and social backgrounds of the books or paper artefacts in your care, to ensure that your approach to their conservation is appropriate and fully informed. Your analysis of the artefacts and materials, your treatment proposals and their practical applications will be supervised by expert tutors who work as professionals across the range of specialisms relevant to your studies.

Alongside your practical projects and conservation reports for each project, you will write a dissertation that relates to practical books and paper conservation issues that you have encountered and researched. By the successful conclusion of the course you will have a substantial portfolio demonstrating your fitness to work as a conservation practitioner.


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