MA Conservation Studies specialising in Metals Conservation 1994 - 1996

Sharon Robinson-Calver

Head of Department of Conservation and Collection Care, Museum of London

Talk us through your career path since graduating

I graduated from the Conservation of Historic Metals course at West Dean College in 1996. Whilst a student I interned at the British Museum and worked for Historic Royal Palaces and Eura Conservation as a welder on the Albert Memorial.

After graduation I was an MGC intern at Tyne and Wear museums, then Conservation Officer and Senior Conservation Officer for the North East region.

After 10 years, I moved to the Museum of London as Regional Collection Care Development Officer, then Collection Care Manager. I was appointed to Head of Department in 2017.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a major project to create a new Museum of London on the site of the old general market at West Smithfield. The relocation will involve the transfer of millions of collection items and the conservation of tens of thousands of objects for the new galleries.

What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date was to secure my current post as Head of the Department of Conservation and Collection Care here at the Museum of London. I work with a talented team of conservators and collection care specialists who are experts in the fields of archaeological conservation, applied arts, paper and textiles. We are in great shape to tackle the enormous challenge ahead of us to create a new museum.

Do you have any tips for recent graduates wanting to establish themselves as a conservator?

Top tips would be to get out there and network, get involved with organisations like Icon, participate in conferences, seek out professional partnerships and be an enabler. Conservation for me is about making collections accessible to everybody. Sometimes circumstances and environments may be challenging but find a way to make it work and work with your organisation. Be risk-based, informed, evidence-based and trusted.

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

West Dean College was a fabulous study environment that gave a range of experiences from practical conservation to science. The uniquely practical nature of the course gave me a deep understanding of how objects are constructed and therefore how they deteriorate. Participation in classes including blacksmithing, silversmithing, engraving and welding helped me to appreciate how items are made and how their material properties inform identification. It gave me a fundamental appreciation of tangible cultural heritage.

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

I don't think that I can single out one memory, there are many great ones. West Dean College is a beautiful immersive place which encouraged total focus and a strong work ethic - long hours in the workshops and library but also tremendous fun, friendships and the odd game of beer can cricket in the Dower House lounge!

Find out more about the School of Conservation