MA Collections Care and Conservation Management 2017 - 2019

Laura Critchlow

Assistant Preventive Conservator

What led you to study Collections Care and Conservation Management? 

Prior to starting the MA Collections Care and Conservation Management course at West Dean, I had been working for the National Trust for several years, most recently as a Conservation Assistant, and had attended a number of National Trust run training courses in preventive conservation. I had career aspirations of being a preventive conservator and hoped the course would help me further my career as it covered a wide range of topics including environmental management and control, salvage and emergency procedures, integrated pest management, working with different materials, pollutants, and risk management, to name a few. 

The fact that the course was part-time, with on-site face-to-face teaching blocks spread throughout the year in addition to distance learning was very appealing and a major factor in choosing this course; as was the work-based learning required element of the course, which enabled learning to be put into practice in real world situations. 

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

I undertook my work-based learning at my place of work, using and applying the knowledge gained on the course to help solve real life issues, problems, challenges in my workplace and make suggestions for improvement; having the confidence to do so. 

The course helped solidify and refresh knowledge I already had, as well as enabling me to gain new critical knowledge and skills both in preventive conservation but also in presentation, critical thinking, problem-solving, prioritising, negotiating and reflective practice, giving me the confidence to present to bosses, and colleagues. 

Some of the best and most useful things about being on the course were studying with like-minded people, the quality of the external guest lecturers; all experts in their field, the way site visits complemented the theory of our learning, and the strong course leadership provided by our subject leader. The mix of both theory and practical sessions was invaluable; from identifying the different pests that damage objects/materials to undertaking a practical emergency salvage exercise and providing emergency first aid treatment for a variety of different objects and materials. From testing air seals on display cases to learning how to undertake an Oddy test. The mix of sessions; practical, theoretical, materials, agents of deterioration, research and presentation skills, are all valuable and essential collections care and conservation management skills. 

The student to teacher ratio on the course is very good, ensuring you get the most from the course, and many of the relationships I made with tutors and peers on the course have remained since graduation. Despite our different career directions and the locations we’re based in, our year groups remain in contact and are a source of support and encouragement to each other. 

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

The skills, knowledge and confidence I gained in my chosen field whilst studying on the course led to me gaining new employment shortly after graduating. I now work as an Assistant Preventive Conservator in the museum sector, and the knowledge and experience I gained from my studies have been extremely valuable and relevant in my current role.

Find out more about the MA Collections Care and Conservation Management

Laura Critchlow - practical oddy testing session at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation