MA Conservation Studies, Specialising in Books and Library Materials 2010 - 2012

Abigail Bainbridge


What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

This year I published Conservation of Books, the first comprehensive, modern book on book conservation. It was a huge project involving 70 contributors from around the world and it took about two and a half years to see it through.

Talk us through your career path since graduating.

I already had conservation experience when I came to study, so after I left West Dean I was able to set up Bainbridge Conservation with my husband, furniture conservator Tristram Bainbridge. I also began teaching: I was Lecturer in Conservation Science in the MA programme at Camberwell College of Arts 2013–17, and Associate Tutor (now the role is called Subject Tutor) at West Dean in the book conservation department from 2013 until pandemic restructuring in 2019. Alongside paid work I joined the Icon Book & Paper Group volunteer committee as Treasurer, then eventually Chair, which was instrumental in networking, developing skills, and making meaningful contributions to the profession. I’m now running our business full time and looking at a next publication project.

What projects are you currently working on?

The biggest ongoing project at the moment is treatment of the paper items in the Shell Gallery of À la Ronde, an 18th century house now owned by the National Trust. The Shell Gallery is at the top of the almost-round house and is covered entirely with shells, feathers, lichen, and watercolours. The treatment is being done by a small team of various specialists led by my fellow West Dean student Rachel Lawson (Ceramics 2012). We started last August and we’re now finally reaching the stage of reinstating items we took down from the walls for studio-based treatment.

Do you have any tips for recent graduates?

Take up any opportunities that come your way and be prepared to hustle—it wasn’t any one thing that made the difference for my career, but many small things that added up to shape it.

How do you think studying at West Dean College prepared you for what you do now?

When I was at West Dean we had a small class size (3 students in my year) and virtually unlimited access to studios and equipment. I had the freedom to pursue what I was interested in learning within a framework that ensured I had all the basics. I had already worked in conservation for a few years after doing my undergraduate degree so I understood the value of time that was just about learning and took full advantage of it.

What's your favourite memory from your time at the College?

It’s where I met my husband!

Abigail is an ICON accredited Conservator, accreditation assessor and mentor.