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Sarah Linder

Conservation of Fine Art MA

Your name and where are you from? City, country?

Sarah Linder

Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Why did you decide to study Conservation of Fine Art?

When attending university and deciding a future career, I desired an outlet that would merge science and art, order and creativity. A dual degree in Art History and Chemistry formed a base of understanding for both the chemical and cultural makeup of artworks I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. The field of Conservation of Fine Art then interested me because of the relations between science and art and the opportunities made available to lengthen the lifespan of works for generations to come.


And why did you choose to study it here, at Northumbria University?

Northumbria University was one of the few universities that had the connection with the US-UK Fulbright commission. Additionally, Northumbria University’s program had the easel painting specialism and I was interested in the two-year course layout, with both studio time and lectures and seminars.


How have you settled in here in Newcastle?

I love Newcastle. It will always claim a part of my heart as home. I was excited to move to Newcastle for the novel part of it being a city in a foreign country, however, I would never have guessed how settled I actually would become while living here. Though I’ve only been living in the city for a little less than two years, I feel like in just a short time I have settled into a living routine in which I no longer feel like an outsider.

What's your relationship like with staff? How do you benefit from academics experience and research?

I have a very positive relationship with all of the faculty and staff that I’ve come into contact with while studying at Northumbria University. My programme tutors in particular are extremely helpful in all things related to my course and future career and are clearly invested in both my current endeavours and in planning what’s next. Due to the small size of my course, we have very personal relationships between tutors and students.

Tell me a little bit about the different teaching methods, also considering comparing to your previous experience.

The most obvious difference and the thing that required the most getting used to, was the submission, grading, and feedback layout. While in college in the US, deadlines were often and many, with constant summative feedback and evaluation on your progress in the course. In this master’s course, the primary deadlines all fall on the same date at the end of the year. For me, it has taken a different mind-set to work through both the assignments and the course. For the MA Conservation of Fine Art course specifically, the layout of taught time is different as well. There are three studio days in a week in which students receive a mixture of taught lecturing and open time to continue work in the studio. The layout is almost more like a structured job in that students are expected to be in the studio from 9:00 to 4:30 and continue with projects as needed.


What facilities do you have access to for this course?How has it helped you and what is the mix of theoretical/practical?

In the MA Conservation of Fine Arts course, time is mainly spent either in Burt Hall or the University Library. There are additional lectures every other week in a few other buildings on campus, including Sandyford and Ellison. All of the conservation labs and materials are held in Burt Hall, which students have access to on studio days and can schedule time with their tutors or book the photography rooms to continue work. When not in Burt Hall, my classmates and I take full advantage of the University Library’s spaces, particularly the separate Master’s Reading Room. The access to both buildings allows ample time for us to control our own schedules. However, being separate forces us to compartmentalise and be organised with both the theoretical and practical sides of our degree.


Tell me a little bit about the opportunities that you have within your course (field trips, guest lecturers, placements, collaborative projects, degree shows etc.)

Each year our tutors organise a field trip, usually up to visit the conservation studios in the galleries in Edinburgh. Our tutors also help advise each of us in finding placements for the summer between our first and second year. The placement period is extremely integral in our continued education, as it is a very practical field. I completed my summer placement at the City of London’s Guildhall Art Gallery. When possible, our tutors also invite guest speakers, usually in the field and working with different organisations put together to provide support and networking across the field. Students in the course are also encouraged to be members of the Conservation of Fine Art Society at Northumbria University.


How do you get on with your course mates? Are they supportive, friendly etc.

My course’s small size and specific skill and interest set makes getting along with course mates extremely easy. We are a tight knit group, which has made a serious impact on my settling into life here at Northumbria University. My course mates have become friends and hopefully future colleagues. The group has a supportive, encouraging atmosphere in which it is easy to flourish. It is a fairly diverse group in which we are constantly learning from each other, whether that be about our academics or professional experiences or simply our life and cultural experiences.


Why do you enjoy your course?

Even when days are tough in the studio, I feel fulfilled and productive and excited about the prospect of continuing what I’m learning to do in a future career. I am passionate about the Conservation of Fine Art and so I enjoy my course because it feels so practical in the way it’s preparing me. Our course also has a very driven but positive atmosphere, facilitated by our tutors, technicians, and my peers. 


What’s the biggest challenge facing the world today in your field?

The sustainability of the resources we use and how they are impacting the world around us. In our field, we use quite a few materials that cannot be reused because they are often full of dirt and debris or harmful solvents. The waste produced is therefore difficult or extremely expensive to recycle. Movement is taking place within the field for awareness and problem solving but there is still always more to be done to increase funding and the finding of creative solutions.


How is Northumbria equipping you to help tackle that challenge?

At Northumbria, both tutors and students are working together with the organisation, Sustainability in Conservation, in order to evaluate and attempt to reduce our waste within our studios and labs.


What are your plans after you graduate?

Initially following graduation, I plan to continue my education in Conservation of Fine Arts through the completion of a Fellowship. I am currently in the process of applying to museum opportunities in the United States and continually networking across the field.

What do you know now that you didn’t when you started and you think could really help other applicants?

If I could give any advice, it would be to obviously approach the opportunity at your own comfort level but also don’t forget that it will go by so quickly. The time frame in which things must be submitted or in which communication is key is much farther in advance in the United States, so don’t stress if it seems to be extremely late when communicating with people in the United Kingdom. Prior to coming, I wasn’t enrolled until a few weeks before I started classes, which I’m told was completely normal. Also purchase a 16-25 Railcard if you’re able to and foresee yourself travellingaround the UK, which I highly recommend!



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