Conservation student from West Dean College of Arts and Conservation on work experience

Work placements and careers

The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector in the UK, EU and internationally, opens up an impressive range of opportunities for our students to gain valuable work experience. An MA Conservation Studies student would typically undertake a placement of six weeks.

"For us, work placements offer an important bridge between us as a major conservation department and a potential employer and the colleges preparing students for careers in the world of conservation.

Placement students bring with them a boost of enthusiasm and fresh insights on working practices, and their questions often challenge us, in turn, to think in different ways about old problems. One of the most important aspects of placement work is putting conservation decisions in context, and this is a very difficult skill to teach in a college setting. Understanding the differences in approach to the same object, depending on usage, ownership and context, is a crucial ability for conservation students to learn, and placements are the best way to develop this."

Nicole Gilroy
Book Conservation Supervisor, Bodleian Library

The students I gave work placement to were both very professional and dedicated. They each had very different skills and ways of working, but were willing to learn, and they both completed the tasks I set them. It was interesting to see how their working practices differed from mine. For me it was a positive experience and it is certainly a challenge I would be happy to repeat.

Simon Paterson
Paterson Restorations Ltd.

Student quotes

Victoria and Albert Museum Placement

"As part of my studies I secured a six week placement at the V&A in the Ceramics and Glass Conservation Studio. Working alongside a small team, I have been able to learn from specialists in the field. The opportunity has enabled me to be immersed in the day-to-day life of being a conservator at the museum, involving activities such as attending meetings and conferences, assessing objects for loans, assisting with preparing objects for exhibitions and treating objects in need of conservation.

I have really enjoyed my time at the V&A. The experience has provided insight into life after West Dean College and has better prepared me for looking for future work. I am very thankful to the conservators who made me feel so welcome and taught me so much."

Rosie Blay

Oxford Conservation Consortium Placement

"The focus of my placement was the cleaning, re-housing and repair techniques on parchment. Apart from the practical work and the numerous external visits to different libraries and archives in Oxford, one of the best aspects of my placement was having access to the Chantry Library.

For a student such as myself, the library provides an inviting and comfortable space where I was able to consolidate my learning in the studio. The variety of resources at the library were also very helpful for me to finish course work related to my studies, including research for a science report… Personally, it was a remarkable experience."

Maria Borg

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum Placement

"The College has a good working relationship with the Russell-Cotes, and I had seen a number of objects from the collection on fellow students’ benches.

It has been a really interesting month for me, both in terms of the range of different watch styles and mechanisms that I have been able to examine, but also getting a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes running of a museum and being involved in a variety of other tasks like hanging pictures and auditing parts of the ceramic collection."

Dale Sardeson

Paterson Restorations Ltd. Placement

"Working with Simon has been a great learning experience. He has taught me a lot about marquetry and inlay work. New techniques and little tricks helped me to get better with my fine motor-skills and I quickly saw improvements in my practical work. This knowledge is of great value in my future career, and I am grateful that Simon was so kind to teach me that."

Carmel Andersson

Recent placement host institutions

Amsterdam City Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago, Bodleian Library, Brighton Pavilion, British Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Heritage Blacksmith Partnership, Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Palace Library, Leiden University Library, Library of Congress, Maritime Museum Rotterdam, National Museum of American History, Notarial Archives, Malta, Oxford Conservation Consortium, Richard Rogers Conservation, Royal Collection Trust, Royal Museums Greenwich, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), and Yale University Library.


West Dean College of Arts and Conservation alumni are a community with international reach. They develop professional links through networking, come to College events, and enjoy benefits such as discounted short courses and library access. Conservation alumni have gone on to work in institutions and the independent sector worldwide.

Read more about our conservation alumni