Over the past five years, the Clare Hampson Fund has given early career conservation professionals the opportunity to learn from experts and hone their conservation skills, enabling them to kick-start their careers in conservation by taking part in the Icon Internship Programme.
The fund was established in the memory of the late Clare Hampson, secretary of the Institute of Paper Conservation, who died in 2002. Clare was a paper conservator, and all the internships have focused on subjects fitting to Clare’s legacy. Interns have worked across the UK, and developed thier skills in paper conservation, photographic materials, film and works of art on paper.
Here, the previous interns have reflected on how the generous support of the Clare Hampson fund has enabled them to transform their skills and help them to embark on their careers in the rewarding world of conservation.
Bodleian Libraries and Oxford Conservation Consortium
I had the opportunity to spend three months with the Bodleian conservation department followed by three months with Oxford Conservation Consortium (OCC). At the Bodleian I worked on several practical projects, including the conservation of a set of Ming Dynasty bindings with my supervisor Robert Minte ACR and a series of maps on tracing paper with Julia Bearman.
At OCC I worked on a series of practical projects alongside my colleagues for various member colleges, with guidance from my supervisor Celia Withycombe ACR. This included assisting with a large-scale survey for Queen's College and the conservation of an account binding for Balliol College. Having my internship divided between the two settings at Oxford allowed me to learn from a diverse group of highly skilled conservators and to compare and contrast various approaches to conservation.
Where you are now: I am currently undertaking a 9-month internship at the National Library of Ireland, funded by the Heritage Council of Ireland. Now I'm working on a binding of early 18th century Irish newspapers which will be rehoused into several fascicles. There is a variety of interesting material coming into the workshop, presenting continuous opportunities for me to apply and extend my learning.
The skills you learnt which helped you get to where you are: During my time in Oxford I picked up countless practical skills, both honing the ones I'd learned during my studies as well as adding completely new ones to my repertoire. I also gained confidence in the professional world of conservation and improved my decision-making skills. These practical, professional and interpersonal skills are put to use daily in my current position and have given me a strong foundation for my career.
National Archives and Tate
My internship focused on the conservation of photographic materials and audience engagement. At the National Archives, I learnt how to identify photographic materials, how and why these materials deteriorate, how to preserve them in an archival setting, and I was able to test out conservation treatments such as surface cleaning, repair, humidification, flattening and washing. A large part of my time at TNA was spent working on a large-scale survey of the photographic film collection where I worked with volunteers who gathered information on over 6000 pieces of film from the collection.
At Tate, I worked closely with Tate's photograph conservator to hone my practical conservation skills and see how fine art photographic collections are cared for throughout their life in a large gallery setting, from their acquisition, how they are stored, as well as loaned and displayed. I learnt about modern and contemporary photographic artworks and the unique challenges they pose in the preservation and conservation of these materials.
Where you are now: Conservator of Contemporary Art, specialising in photograph conservation, Tate Gallery
The skills you learnt which helped you get to where you are: This internship was pivotal in starting my career as a conservator of photographic materials. I originally trained as a paper conservator, and as there are currently no training courses in photograph conservation in the UK, this internship gave me the opportunity to build on my existing knowledge and learn the necessary skills to become a conservator of photographic materials.
Having the opportunity to be hosted by both the National Archives and Tate gave me a well-rounded view of how photographic materials are cared for across different heritage institutions, and from this I realised I have a particular interest in the conservation of modern and contemporary photographic materials. I am truly grateful for this opportunity as it gave me the experience needed to pursue a career in this specialism, and I have no doubt that it is because of this that I am now in my dream job!
I had an incredibly rich and varied experience, my main role was as a bench conservator but I also spent time in various conservation workflows including Exhibitions & Loans, Preventive, Digitisation and External Conservation. If you want to learn more about my time as an intern you can find a presentation here on the Icon website.
Where you are now: After completing my internship I worked as a freelance conservator for two years, working in a mix of private conservation studios and within institutions. Working part time at several different places at once allowed me to cement and rapidly build upon the skills I had learnt on my internship, this included:
I also returned to the British Library to work part time as a bench conservator to complete projects from my internship, the treatment of which had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the conservation of a manuscript by Johann Sebastian Bach. Alongside this I supported the Exhibitions and Loans Conservation team after the backlog of work caused by the pandemic.
In August 2022 I began a part time contract as a Book Conservator at the British Library and at the start of this year I was hired for a permanent, full time role which I have been working in since.
The skills you learnt which helped you get to where you are: A post-graduate internship proved to be the perfect stepping stone between education and employment, and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the Clare Hampson Fund. It enabled me to build my practical skills, complete research and work in a busy conservation studio. At the British Library I worked with various conservators with differing training backgrounds who enrich the department with a wide breadth of knowledge.
Through my colleagues and conservation mentors, in both private practice and in institutions I have continued learning through mentorship, supporting me on my journey to a fulfilling career in conservation.
I have seen myself develop as a conservator and my skills grow, and without the Clare Hampson fund giving me the perfect starting point to my career, none of this would have been possible. I am so fortunate to have been influenced by so many inspiring and incredibly talented conservation professionals.
For this past year I have been mentoring our current intern at the British Library, (I am one of two mentors within our team), it has been a wonderful experience to come full circle from mentee to mentor. In addition to my role as a practical book and paper conservator, mentoring and teaching has always been a passion of mine and something I plan to continue throughout my professional career as my experience grows. This commitment to promoting professional development was hugely influenced by the legacy of the Clare Hampson fund.