31 Aug 2023
by Sarah Holloway

Close up of hands repairing a book spine.
Conservators need steady hands and an eye for detail. (© British Library)

We are continuing our work with Icon (Institute of Conservation) to raise awareness of the work of conservators, particularly through matching local sites with experts. Here are some of the fantastic events happening across the country this September where you can find out more…

'Book’ yourself in for a treatment

The precious pages of books (and pamphlets, and any paper items really) need a bit of TLC too. Head to these historic sites to see an expert care for some rather special works on paper:

  • Letters of science: Drop by for a chat with Annie Elliott, who will be working on some very special letters from the BRLSI’s collection in a pop up studio. (Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution / Somerset)
  • Local records and personal papers: Visit this 18th century village school to explore stories from the past and meet conservator, Solange Masher, who will be working on papers in need of some TLC. (Aston-cum-Aughton History Group / South Yorkshire)

TLC for papers

Important papers in need of special care, find out how they are preserved this September. (© Solange Masher)

Calling the house doctors

All buildings suffer wear and tear over the years: tiles slip from a roof in a storm, wooden frames rot in the rain, and even stone wears away over time. If your favourite old building is looking careworn it is time to call an expert like these:

  • Home sweet (historic) home: How do you look after a historic house and its collection? From textiles and books to decorative gilding, meet the experts here to find out more. (Lamport Hall / Northamptonshire)
  • Lime and mortar: Gather round and get the inside track on how one of the UK’s oldest museums still in use is being preserved for future generations. (Rotunda Museum / North Yorkshire)
  • Hard hats and a head for heights!: When serious repairs are needed, scaffolding is required. It’s time to climb for this one – hard hats on you will see two beautiful old buildings currently being restored. (Bishopwearmouth Townscape Heritage Scheme / Tyne & Wear)
  • Doorway through time: What connects famous London architect Christopher Wren with Dorset’s Jurassic coast? The answer is STONE – Portland stone. Quarried in Dorset and shipped to London it was used extensively in buildings ranging from from St Paul’s Cathedral to 81 Fleet Street. When the latter was recently pulled down its stonework was saved and returned to Dorset where a very special project is now working to restore it as part of a new geological pathway. See the stones and meet the team! (Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust / Dorset) 

Doorway through time

1 doorway, 124 sections of stone awaiting care and reassembly for this inspiring project. (© Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust)

Churches through the centuries

Built to inspire, to shelter and to last. Churches are full of fascinating features that need extra care.

  • Glorious glass: Learn how medieval craftsmen made these stunning medieval windows. Plus the modern techniques that have helped them glow again. (All Saints / North Yorkshire)
  • Top class glass: More glorious glass! Meet the conservator who has been working on Top Church’s East Window. Plus, take a trip up the scaffold with the architect working to preserve the building. (Top Church Dudley / West Midlands)
  • Marvellous misericords: Amongst the fun on offer here seek out the volunteers who will be working with a conservator to clean some very special 15th century miserichords. These decorative wooden seat rests are a beautiful feature of many churches, inspiring writers and artists across the ages. (St Mary’s Church / Worcestershire)

Marvellous misericords

Thousands of people have leant against these carvings over the years. Time to give them a spotlight, get them gleaming again! (© Kate Andrew)

Multifaceted museum collections

Museums are the ultimate storehouses of the past, with very varied collections, requiring muti-talented specialists to care for their different needs.

  • Uncovering the mysteries of the Mary Rose: Take a behind the scenes tour with the Collections & Conservation team, to see how they care for this famous Tudor wreck. (Mary Rose Museum / Hampshire)
  • Past patterns: This museum has a wonderful collection of over 1,000 pattern books dating from the 1800s to the 1990s. Meet the conservator ensuring its history of design is kept in tip top condition for future generations. (Macclesfield Silk Museum / Cheshire) 
  • Microscopes and vacuums: Check out the tools of the trade required for an objects conservator. Meet Kayleigh Spring and find out just what they are needed for. (Athelstan Museum / Wiltshire)

Look closer

Object conservators have to work with a wide variety of objects. Find out more at Athelstan Museum's event. (© CMAS Kayleigh Spring)

Step inside the studio

Go behind the scenes and dive deeper into the work and world of conservators on these studio tours:

  • Art and artists: For one day only take a tour of this independent art conservator’s studio. Based in a 19th century artist’s studio in a conservation area, it ticks all the historic conservation boxes! (Joanna Payne Conservation / London)
  • Terrific textiles: See historic textiles up close and chat with the conservation team that cares for them. (National Trust / Norfolk)
  • Books and beyond: Take a peek behind the scenes and meet the experts caring for a collection of over 170 million items from every age of written civilisation! (British Library / London)

Books and beyond

Be ready! These behind the scenes tours are set to be jam-packed with information and wonders! (© British Library)

PLEASE NOTE - These events were accurate at the time of publication but the details may change. Some events require pre-booking. Please check the individual entries for updates and details.

Find out more

  • What's on? – Explore more events near you
  • Festival Spotlights – Be inspired for your event searches with our highlight posts
  • Meet the experts – From gardening to cutting edge science, more events with experts this September
Icon interviews

Delve deeper with these spotlights on some of the conservators taking part this year:

Curious collections
  • Deadly Design – Get an insight into the dangers of conserving historic houses!
  • 7 Beautiful Books – Explore some of the National Trust’s stunning collection with this blog