At the heart of the library are the collections in all physical and digital formats. Our conservation team cares for the physical collections, which number some 150 million items, from all cultures dating from 3000 BCE to the present day. The collections include a wide array of material types including paper, parchment, photographs, leather, papyrus, wood, textile, ceramic, metal.

The work of our conservation experts allows the collection to be used and preserves it for as long as possible. We do this with preventive techniques, hands on treatment of individual items, assessing and preparing items for digitisation, non-destructive scientific analysis and imaging techniques.

Read our position paper and strategic direction 2017-20 (PDF format) for more details on our conservation methods and activities. You can also come on a tour of our conservation studios to find out more.

Find out more

Preventive conservation

We protect the British Library's collections from harm, damage and deterioration.

Conservation treatment

We conserve books, paper items, parchment, vellum, photographs and textiles.

Conservation internships and placements

See our opportunities for conservation students and professionals.

Conservation science

Our specialists test materials, analyse items and conduct research.

Conservation advice for the public

Follow our advice on how to take good care of your collections.

Preservation guides

Download our free PDF guides on a range of preservation topics.

Help

How to handle rolled items

We show you how to unroll items like scrolls, rolls and maps.

How to handle books

See the techniques you should use to keep our books in good shape.

How to handle archive material

Watch our video on handling and help us keep our archive material in good condition.

How to handle folded items

See how to handle folded items like inserts in books, large maps or charters.

How to handle prints, drawings and photographs

Our video shows you how to handle these vulnerable items.

Using gloves

Should you wear gloves? Here's some advice to help you decide.

News and events

Conservation studio tour

Take a behind-the-scenes tour and see our world-renowned conservators in action

One day preservation courses at the British Library

Book your place on one of our courses for professionals and students.

Blog posts

Iron gall ink on paper: Saving the words that eat themselves

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Paul Garside & Zoë Miller Iron gall ink (IGI) will be familiar to most of us as the characteristic brown ink that we associate with the authenticity and softly aged aesthetic of historic documents. It is the most important writing...

Conservation for Digitisation: A collaboration with the Palestinian Museum

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Amy Baldwin, Book Conservator & Jessica Pollard, Digitisation Conservator In April and May 2019 we had the pleasure of welcoming two members of staff from the Palestinian Museum, Baha Jubeh, Conservation Manager and Bara Bawatneh, Conservator, to the British Library...

Lotus Sutra Project: Storage Solutions

Monday, December 7, 2020

Paulina Kralka and Marya Muzart The Lotu...

Lotus Sutra Project: Scroll with Blue Cover

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Marya Muzart, Digitisation Conservator, International Dunhuang Project Picture 1: Close up of digitised scroll after treatment. The Lotus Sutra Manuscripts Digitisation Project at The British Library, is a multi-year project aiming to conserve and digitise almost 800 copies of the...

More blog posts

Related services and subjects

Digital preservation

We save our digital heritage for future generations

Printed books

Our collections include books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, handbills and advertisements