Dr Karen Finch OBE, 8th May 1921 - 15th April 2018

 Dr Karen Finch OBE

Dr Karen Finch OBE

We are so sorry to pass on the news that Karen died peacefully, at home, on Sunday 15th April.

She is mourned by her daughter, Katrina, her son-in-law Alan and her beloved grandsons Joshua and Jacob. Katrina wrote, “We shall forever miss the extraordinary person Karen was, whose smile and enthusiasm for life shone a radiant glow over even the most mundane.”

Having trained many students from around the world at her own practice at her home in Ealing, Karen founded the Textile Conservation Centre, in Grace and Favour apartments at Hampton Court Palace in 1975. There she established the three-year postgraduate diploma in textile conservation validated by the Courtauld Institute of Art, a huge step forward in the training of textile conservators and a qualification held by many of us working in the field. From its inception the TCC included a conservation services section where trained conservators worked alongside the students and teaching staff. Karen was Principal until her retirement in 1986. Her huge achievements in the field were recognised by the award of an OBE.

The TCC moved to a new building at the University of Southampton in 1999. Following its closure by the University in 2009, the textile conservation programme, now an MPhil, was incorporated into the new Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, established at the University of Glasgow in 2010.

Karen’s legacy is tremendous – she made a huge contribution to the establishment of the field of textile conservation in the UK and worldwide. Well over 100 students completed the postgraduate diploma offered by the TCC at Hampton Court, and very many more studied on the subsequent MA programme offered by the University of Southampton. Students on the programmes came from almost 40 different countries and now hold positions in museums and private practice in countries all around the world.

Teaching was always Karen’s prime motivation and, even after retirement, she maintained her passion for textiles and their conservation and kept in touch with her wide network of friends, colleagues and former students around the world.

Professor Frances Lennard, Director of the Centre for Textile Conservation writes: "Karen taught me as a student and retained her interest in developments at the TCC and later the CTC here in Glasgow. We still use the Karen Finch Reference Collection on a daily basis, and although the textile conservation programme has developed over more than 40 years, elements are still recognisable from the early days. Karen was adamant that conservators needed to understand the science underlying conservation treatments and the teaching staff included a scientist from the earliest days. Her legacy is underpinned by the Karen Finch Prize, offered each year by the Textile Conservation Foundation to an outstanding student."

Clare Meredith, Chairman of the Textile Conservation Foundation, summed up Karen’s achievements: "It’s hard now to imagine our heritage sector without textile conservators, but that professional community is Karen Finch’s exceptional legacy. Karen was a true pioneer and her vision, over 40 years ago, was to establish the first recognised training course in textile conservation. Her achievements are legendary, but my memories of meeting Karen in recent years are – above all – of the palpable pleasure, interest and pride she took in past and present students.”

Funeral arrangements
Karen’s funeral will take place on Tuesday 1st of May at 12:15pm at the North Chapel at City of London Crematorium, Aldersbrook Rd, Manor Park, London E12 5DQ. Parking is available.

Flowers are welcome or alternatively donations in Karen’s name can be made to either Marie Curie (www.mariecurie.org.uk) or Barnardos (www.barnardos.org.uk). Cash donations to these charities can also be made at the funeral.

Dress as you please.  Post funeral reception at 37 Bisterne Avenue E17 3QR

Come to the Centre's Open Day on 21st March!

The Centre will be open and welcoming visitors between 12.00 and 6.00 pm on 21st March.  If you would like to visit, please book through Eventbrite - just follow this link.

You will be able to see the work of students on the two programmes, MPhil Textile Conservation and MLitt Technical Art History: Making and Meaning, and our PhD students. You’ll also be able to find out about the Centre's new programme MSc Modern Material Artefacts which will be starting in September 2018. Research projects will be on show, including work in the barkcloth conservation lab. and chromatography lab.

The Centre is on Level 3 and Level 5, Robertson Building, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G11 6AQ.

From textiles to lacquer

From textiles to lacquer

Doctoral student Jing Han was supported by a generous bursary from the TC Foundation during her three years of study.  Her research created the first complete picture of dyeing techniques in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, China (1368-1911).  We are delighted to report that Dr Jing Han has joined the Getty Conservation Institute, where she is part of a team researching Asian and European lacquer. 

TCC graduate in BM film of conservation project

TCC graduate in BM film of conservation project

Monique Pullan trained at the Textile Conservation Centre in the early 1990s and has since worked in the Organics Conservation section of the British Museum's Conservation Department.

As part of a project linked to the major grant that the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded for the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, the BM is producing films of conservation in action to spread the word about its work and about conservation generally.

Monique features in one of these - a short film about the conservation of a Ndbele beaded blanket.  

Graduation 2016

The MPhil Textile Conservation students who began the 2-year programme in 2014 graduated in Glasgow University's magnificent Bute Hall on 28th November 2016.  

 Unlike the gloomy Glasgow weather, the atmosphere both during and after the ceremony was delightfully uplifting. The formality, grandeur and time-honoured tradition of the ceremony added to the sense of occasion and felt like a fitting acknowledgment and reflection of the graduands’ achievements. There was a palpable sense of mutual admiration and shared success which contributed to a feeling of great positivity and optimism about the future. It was a proud moment when the names were called to be presented to the Vice-Principal and we could join families, partners and friends in applauding their individual success.

Many congratulations to the graduates and to all of the staff of the Centre for Textile Conservation



The Trustees of the Textile Conservation Foundation (TCF) are delighted to learn of the news of Frances Lennard’s promotion, on August 1st 2016, from Senior Lecturer to Professor.

Frances joins just a tiny handful of professorial appointments within the conservation profession and is the first UK Professor of Textile Conservation. Her career path started as a postgraduate student at the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) where she subsequently worked in the Conservation Services Section. Frances then worked as a freelance textile conservator in Somerset, in partnership with Fiona Hutton, returning to the TCC in 2001 where she took on the role of Programme Leader of the MA course until the TCC’s closure in 2009. In 2009 the TCC, renamed as the Centre for Textile Conservation (CTC), relocated to the University of Glasgow where Frances was appointed Senior Lecturer and Convenor of the MPhil Textile Conservation course.

A comprehensive list of Frances’ publications may be found at http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/cca/staff/franceslennard/, but two outstanding contributions to the literature of textile conservation are highlighted here:

Lennard, F. and Ewer, P., (Eds.) (2010) Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice. Series: Butterworth-Heinemann series in conservation and museology. Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann: Oxford. ISBN 9780750667906


Lennard, F. and Hayward, M., (Eds.) (2006) Tapestry Conservation: Principles and Practice. Series: Series in Conservation and Museology. Butterworth-Heinemann: Oxford. ISBN 9780750661843

Currently, Frances is the Principal Investigator of two major research projects:

Situating Pacific barkcloth production in time and place, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and a partnership between Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens Economic Botany Collection at Kew, and the Smithsonian Institution, reflected in the appointments of three project staff within the CTC – an historian, a conservator and a scientist.

From the Golden Age to the Digital Age: modelling and monitoring historic tapestries, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant and is a partnership with Glasgow Museums, Glasgow University’s Engineering Department and Historic Environment Scotland.

These two major projects amply demonstrate the strength of the Centre and its reputation since its relocation to the University of Glasgow, but there is more. Dr Anita Quye, Lecturer in Conservation Centre at CTC has been promoted to Senior

Lecturer and pilot phases of further research projects are underway, led by Frances and Anita, as well as other colleagues, which have already resulted in an increased number of research assistants and PhD students.

Underpinning Frances’ publication and research is delivery of the acclaimed two-year MPhil Textile Conservation course where she leads an energetic and committed team of teaching staff. Annual cohorts of eight post-graduate students are put through their professional paces and, upon graduating, add to the CTC’s exceptional internship and workplace track record.

Congratulations Professor Lennard!


More research grant success

Dr Anita Quye, the Centre's Lecturer in Conservation Science secured a prestigious EU grant: a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions award.

Called LightFasTR, this innovative 2-year postdoctoral interdisciplinary research will investigate the true lightfastness of Turkey Red. This will inform light-exposure for heritage collections and to improve colour stability of commercial industrial madder dyeing, which is resurgent in India. 

The award will fund an International Fellowship for Dr Mohammad Shahid from New Delhi. 

In addition, Anita has secured a Carnegie Trust Research Initiative Grant to fund her research into the chemical variability of early synthetic dyes in her Dye-versity project.

Anita has started archival research, and completes the full study, which will include uHPLC analysis, in the Autumn when she begins a semester long sabbatical. She is also currently supervising literature reviews by four chemistry undergraduates for 19th century industrial synthesis of aniline dyes to understand their chemical composition.

Blog Update

The Centre for Textile Conservation's blog is well worth following. Blog posts by the Centre's staff and students are varied and fascinating, among recent reports are:

Reports on the Centre's recent success in securing major grants for the Barkcloth and Tapestry research projects, and on other current research projects such as the highly successful ReCreate project and the Painted Textiles project.

Updates on the work of the MPhil Textile Conservation students:
Conservation of a seal gut parka
Challenges of conservation dyeing
Dissertation research in Shetland
Fluorescent labelling of adhesives

As well as student successes:
CTC graduate shortlisted for Conservator of the Year 2015
CTC student awarded Certificate of Excellence

And reports on PhD students' research and success:
Julie Wertz Turkey Red
Jing Han  Dyeing in Ming and Qing China
Lucie Whitmore The intangible history of costume

Sign up for the blog to get a real insight into the work of the Centre's staff and students.

Major Research Grant Successes

 Frances Lennard, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Textile Conservation has secured not just one, but two major research grants.

Barkcloth Project

Unique, preserved textiles from the Pacific Islands are coming under the microscope courtesy of an innovative collaboration between textile conservation experts at the University of Glasgow, botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and barkcloth specialists at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The project is supported by a major grant of nearly £1m,  from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and will run for three years from November 2015. Frances Lennard, Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation, will lead the project.

Barkcloth is a very distinctive art form and close study of it can tell us a lot, not only about the plants that were used to make the materials, but also about the people who made them.
We will investigate the history of Pacific barkcloth, also known as tapa cloth, which is made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree and other plants. By studying the material closely, it is hoped that we will gain new insight into the lost skills, culture and knowledge associated with this ancient craft.

Tapestry Monitoring

This project represents second phase of a project originally funded by the AHRC when the TCC was in Winchester. This new two-year project will be funded by a grant of £200,000 from the Leverhulme Trust. Project collaborators are the Centre, Historic Scotland (the Stirling Castle tapestry project), Glasgow Museums (to inform the re-display of the Burrell Collection) and the Dept. of Engineering at the University of Glasgow. The research will investigate whether proven engineering techniques, such as computational modelling and digital image correlation, can inform our understanding of the effect of different conservation and display techniques