MOOCs for Book Conservators

As many aspiring conservators know, the path the attending a graduate level art conservation program is long and treacherous. In the US specifically, the bar is set especially high, and college education in general has fallen under scrutiny for its high cost and unbalanced return on investment. Without getting too political, I have been really excited about the rise of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) that provide free educational courses on a dizzying array of subjects to the public for free. All someone needs is a computer, internet access and the necessary motivation in order to receive instruction from top university professors around the world.


Even more exciting is the fact that there are classes dedicated specifically to book history, book making, and even conservation. From my experience the best site offering book related MOOCs is EdX. They have a fantastic series simply entitled “The Book” that delves deep into many subjects surrounding the codex. Coursera also offers some classes, but they seem to come and go. I have taken fascinating courses from both sites that are offered by renowned institutions such as Cambridge and Standford.

Digging Deeper, offered directly from Stanford, was the first MOOC I ever took. I highly suggest it for anyone interested in Medieval history or early book production. The class brings in an international team of scholars from Cambridge and beyond to really “dig deep” into the Medieval manuscripts and show how a budding scholar should approach these tomes. I loved learning about the processing of materials needed to make these books and about how scholars describe and view these incredible books. It is an ideal place to start for anyone looking to get into book related MOOCs.


I was ecstatic when I found Science in Art: Chemistry in Art Materials and Conservation offered through EdX. Finally a free class that delved into the mysterious chemistry behind conservation. As an art history major, I naturally steered clear of chemistry classes during my undergrad. I had to join the ranks of aspiring pharmacists and nurses at my local community college to earn the credits to apply for my preferred Art Conservation program. This MOOC offered a bridge between organic chemistry class and the conservation treatments I have carried out at the Charleston Library Society. While not as well done as Digging Deeper, it none-the-less offered invaluable information for the emerging conservator.

Below I will try and keep up with a list of MOOCs offered around the web. I will offer comments on each as I work my way through them, but until then I cannot guarantee their quality. If you have taken any of these MOOC classes I would love to hear your review in the comment section. Happy learning!





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