Lizzie Neville of West Dean college.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

ATG: Is the demand for courses increasing or is there a worry the wider subject has become less attractive to students etc?

Lizzie Neville: We are finding that the student numbers are increasing on the Conservation Studies programmes.

Is there a hierarchy within conservation with more demand for pictures but furniture and other antiques restoration becoming less desirable?

We have had to increase workshop capacity for some Conservation Studies pathways in books and metals and have recently developed a short course on the introduction of plastics to respond to the growing number of plastic objects in museum collections.

Demand is less in some of the decorative arts and crafts such as furniture and ceramics, though there’s a wide range of interdisciplinary opportunities for our students to collaborate across specialisms.

For example, two of our clocks and furniture students are currently collaborating on the treatment of a cuckoo clock made by prestigious Black Forest clockmaker Johann Baptist Beha, c.1860, working on both the Scots Pine and European oak structure and the clock mechanism.

You have teamed up with KLC School of Design which means you are larger and have more scope. But how difficult has it been during the pandemic and what is the longer-term outlook for the sector of conservation?

With disruption in the museums sector due to lockdowns, we’ve had to find innovative solutions to ensure graduates have the high-level practical and theoretical skills they need.

Recently our ceramics conservation students took part in a five-week online work placement with The Corning Museum of Glass in New York, which was the first of its kind for both the college and the museum. We also work hard to provide as many funding opportunities as possible for students to help support their studies.

If we can continue to show the important role that conservation plays and how it helps us to discover more about our past we can ensure a positive outlook.

We also need to stay at the forefront of technology, by continuing to respond to more modern materials, like plastics, as well as making the most of the opportunities technology can bring to both conservation treatment and the ability to share conservation work with the wider public.