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

A Book Conservator Without Any Books: Part 1

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

By Samantha Hare (Book Conservation Intern) As I write this it’s been 134 days and 6 hours since I last stepped foot in the British Library (not that I’m counting or anything). I began a year-long internship in book conservation...

Starting with A Book – A Conservator in the Lockdown

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The pandemic took the conservation department in the British Library by surprise along with everybody else! Conservators working on physical objects found themselves transported to digital working overnight. For some it was an easy transition, while others adjusted with a...

Paper Express! A Hand-Made Tale

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Heather Murphy Recently, within the conservation studio of the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership, watermarks have been a theme. Throughout the months leading up to lockdown, my colleague Camille and I began developing a project based around some interesting examples...

Rolls from the King’s Library: An Unexpected Arrival

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Rebecca D’Ambrosio What do you do when something unexpected happens? When out of the blue something quite big lands in your hands? This is something that we can all too easily relate to today. Back in March 2019 this is...

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