MA Conservation Studies specialising in Books and Library Materials 2019 - 2021

Flo Watson


I graduated with a Graduate Diploma in The Conservation of Books and Library Materials in 2020, and went on to get an MA in the same subject the following year.

After graduating, I got a job as a Project Conservator for digitisation at the National Archives, where I work on collections that are going to be digitised. The job is really immersive and has helped me to refine my skills and expand my repertoire. I get to work with a huge range of materials, including bound volumes, flat works on paper, parchment, iron gall ink documents and transparent papers. I have recently been promoted to a higher band, so this means I get to coordinate some of our larger projects, which I’m very excited for!

My biggest achievement to date is being invited to speak at the 2023 IADA conference in Halle/Leipzig, which will take place this coming October. I will be talking about how our team prepared a collection of extremely brittle papers with severe iron gall ink damage for digitisation.

Studying at West Dean helped to lay the groundwork for everything I do in my job. I feel particularly lucky to have graduated with a specialism in books and bound volumes, as it means that I have the skills to work on some really interesting projects. I am in the process of disbinding and rebinding a collection of library bindings to enable access during digitisation – these are skills I learned at West Dean and which serve me well in my work now.

I received several grants and bursaries during my two years at West Dean, including the Edward James Foundation bursary. Without funding, I wouldn’t have been able to get my degree, so I am incredibly grateful to my funders. I have many happy memories from my time at the college, which mainly include walking, swimming and spending time at the pub with my friends. I loved the freedom of being able to use the workshops (almost) whenever I wanted. In particular I enjoyed the historic binding workshops that we did as part of our course – I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much in such a short space of time. West Dean is a very special place and I’m glad I had the very unique experience of studying here.

If I had any advice for recent graduates, it would be to go for any opportunity that comes your way and to use any connections you have made in previous work and during your degree. Look out for funding and mentoring opportunities too. 

Find out more about studying books conservation here.