Papers of Karen Finch OBE DLitt FIIC FRSA, 1921-2018, textile conservator and founder of the Textile Conservation Centre, London, England

Scope and Content

  • Diaries;
  • Correspondence;
  • Lecture notes and teaching;
  • Conference programmes & papers;
  • Publications, including articles, translations and reviews;
  • Textile research files;
  • TCC files, including plans and press cuttings;
  • Photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Karen Finch was a leading advocate for textile conservation worldwide, transforming the profession through her teaching, workroom practice and writing. Karen (née Møller) was born on a farm in Rødding, Denmark on 8th May 1921, daughter of Soren Møller and Ellen Sinding. She attended Kunsthåndværkerskolen (Art Handworkers’ School) in Copenhagen where she trained as a weaver and textile designer, and moved to London in 1946 after marrying Englishman Norman Finch. She worked restoring textiles at the Royal School of Needlework and the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she experimented to develop new techniques of textile cleaning and first began to train students and began her long career of training and mentoring textile conservation students.

In 1959, together with her sister-in-law Greta Putnam, Karen set up her own workroom at her home in Ealing where they took commissions, along with young people eager to learn textile conservation skills. She taught textile technique, history and conservation to museum staff and Courtauld History of Dress students before founding the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) in 1975. The TCC was opened in grace-and-favour accommodation at Hampton Court Palace with Finch as Principal.

In 1976, Karen was appointed OBE for her services to conservation. She retired from the TCC in 1986 and remained active in textile conservation, continuing to give papers at conferences, provide conservation advice, to translate papers, participate in learned societies and mentor mid-career colleagues. In 1987 she received an award from the National Art Collections Fund for ‘Lifetime Service to the Arts’. In 1999 the University of Southampton awarded her an honorary DLitt. In 2000 friends and colleagues contributed to a volume of essays dedicated to her.

Karen joined the International Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (IIC) in the 1950s and was elected a Fellow in 1962. She was a member of the Council of the Leather Conservation Centre and the ICOM Costume Committee and a founder member of the Costume Society and the Friends of Fashion (Museum of London). She was also honoured by life membership of The National Trust and emeritus membership of the Embroiderers’ Guild. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Karen died at home on 15th April 2018, aged 96. She is remembered for her huge contribution to the establishment of the field of textile conservation in the UK and worldwide.



Arranged in original order following receipt from the Library Research Annexe.

Access Information

Some records may be subject to General Data Protection Regulations.

Acquisition Information

Deposit : Textile Conservation Centre : 7 Nov 2013 : ACCN 3810

Other Finding Aids

Please contact the Duty Archivist for a copy of the draft box list for this collection.

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

None which affect the use of this material

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

To be appraised.

Custodial History

Held by Karen Finch and the Textile Conservation Centre prior to acquisition by the University of Glasgow after the creation of the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History. Collection held at the University of Glasgow Library Research Annexe before transfer to Archives & Special Collections.


Accurals expected.

Related Material

GB 248 ACCN 3781, Records of the Textile Conservation Centre

Location of Originals

This material is original


Website: Karen Finch,

Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999and National Council on Archives, Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

England is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level description compiled by Emma Yan, Assistant Archivist, 03 June 2019.