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

On light: conserving material for our exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Alexa McNaught-Reynolds, Conservation Exhibition and Loan Manager Two of the items selected for display in our exhibition: Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights appear to be in good condition but have vulnerabilities that may not be immediately obvious. In...

Learning to Communicate: Before and After Lockdown

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Samantha Cawson, Digitisation Conservator The conservation profession takes skills sharing seriously and so the need to open up channels of communication is essential. This is especially true of The British Library’s Centre for Conservation (BLCC), which has collaborated with institutions...

Joining the British Library Salvage Team

Thursday, September 10, 2020

This is the third and final blog post in a series about the British Library Salvage Team and the impact of COVID-19. Previously, my colleagues Sarah Hamlyn and Nicole Monjeau discussed changes made to the Disaster Response Plans and team...

Salvage training during lockdown

Thursday, September 3, 2020

This is the second of three blog posts in a series about the British Library’s Salvage Team, and the adjustments made to the Team during the COVID-19 lockdown. In a previous post, my colleague Sarah Hamlyn discussed how our Salvage...

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