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Joanna Blackburn

Career Path: Paper Conservator, The British Library
Location: London, UK

When I was 15 I met with a very good career advisor. I told her that I was good at drawing, but didn't want the financial insecurity of working as an artist, and she suggested conservation, and that was it! I did some volunteering, visited conservation studios whenever possible and then started at Northumbria. After I finished the course in early 2011 I immediately got a job as a conservator at The National Archives in Kew.

What are you doing now?

I am currently working at The British Library on a two year contract. My job involves contributing to the general work programme, predominantly focusing on unbound paper-based material, but a number of unusual items have come my way. For example, so far this year I have worked on scrolls made of birch bark, a manuscript written on palm leaf and a dissected map three times the size of me!

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals / give your career an edge?

Northumbria's focus on providing a broad understanding of conservation within the context of the workplace, as well as a solid knowledge base of technical information, really helped me to gain the trust and respect of employers and colleagues when I started my first job.

What was the best thing about your course?

For me, the best thing about the course was the wealth of knowledge and experience of the teaching staff.

Who inspired you the most, and why?

For me, the best thing about the course was the wealth of knowledge and experience of the teaching staff.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now/throughout your career?

I would say that the main thing I gained from my time at Northumbria, that has proved invaluable in my career so far, is a framework for thinking about my work. A calm, systematic way of approaching a problem from every angle.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

Working through the night in the library with good friends and lots of cake.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

Use your time wisely and try to fit everything in, because every bit of reading, and every task you're given has been carefully thought through by the tutors. I didn't realise how valuable it all was until I got into working life.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in 3 words?

Challenging, demanding and rewarding.

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