Conservation Stations at HOD: a “Repair Shop” at Wandle Industrial Museum

Icon member Katarina Kelsey will demonstrate how conservators repair historic books for Heritage Open Days

02 Sep 2022

Icon is working with Heritage Open Days to raise awareness of the work of conservators, particularly through matching local sites with experts.

Conservation Stations are being set up across the country for Heritage Open Days, where the public will be able to learn about the important work conservators do.



Wandle Industrial Museum: Our very own “Repair Shop” with book conservator Katarina Kelsey

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Wandle Industrial Museum, Vestry Hall Annex, London Road, Mitcham, Greater London, CR4 3UD

Saturday 10 September: 12.00-15.00

Katarina will show you historic book structures, the creepy crawlies and materials that eat books up, and will be demonstrating how book conservators repair historic books and manuscripts.

Katarina will have:

  • A historic book that she will be conserving
  • Examples of iron gall ink and iron galls, recipes and some images of iron gall ink degradation
  • Examples of historic book structures
  • Images of pest damage
  • Materials for children to make their own books - children can drop-in throughout the day to make their own origami book structures

Find out more on the Heritage Open Days website here.


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Book conservator Katarina Kelsey writes about why you shouldn't miss the Conservation Station at Wandle Industrial Museum:


What's your current role?

I'm a freelance book conservator who specialises in working for the antiquarian book trade. My work really varies depending on my clients; sometimes I'm undertaking minimal intervention on a 17th century mathematical treatise and sometimes it's rebacking a vellum, first edition Oscar Wilde.

I have clients who specialise in ephemera also, and I really enjoy the material and mechanical differences between what was once regarded as 'high' or 'low' culture, and how that difference has been flattened by a collectors market. I love the variety of work my clients bring me.

I also work for some libraries and I do work for the National Conservation Service, which has a lot more institutional work and surveying. It's fantastic as I really feel I get to have a finger in every pie.

copyright Katarina Kelsey book HOD.jpg


How did you choose your specialism?

I was doing my foundation fine art at UAL in 2009 and wasn't sure what to do next—I had been working in a theatre and was thinking about taking a year out and applying for a degree in English Literature.

Back then, UAL used to send round a newspaper listing all their degrees—I saw the words 'Book Conservation' and thought it would be the perfect compromise between English and Art. It turns out it wasn't, and I had to learn to love conservation, but I'm still doing it ten years after graduating and I'm eternally grateful I happened upon it as a subject. 

My favourite thing about working with books is often, they're objects that will end up back in the hand of a user. The materials we conserve are vitally important, but more than anything it feels like a conduit to another person. It's an extension of the conversation that writing and reading generate and it's about connecting with other people we may never even meet.


About the Conservation Station 

I'll be participating at Mitcham Heritage Day on the 10th of September (see here for details) and Hillingdon Manor Farm on the 17th of September (more details here).

I'll have a range of activites: some child friendly bookbinding, examples of insect damage, iron gall inks to play with, examples of historic book structures and I'll be there to offer conservation advice to any visitors.

People should come and see it if they're interested in history, entomology, need conservation advice, or just want to learn something new!

I really want to showcase the breadth of activity and knowledge involved in conservation: to promote it as a service worth paying for and to showcase it as an exciting and viable career choice to anyone of any age thinking about what they want to do in life.


You can check Katarina's website at, follow her on Instagram @katarinalkelsey or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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