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F4K507 Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects (PP) MA Postgraduate Taught  2016


UCAS code F4K507
Degree MA
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 2 years (full -time) or 3 years (part-time)
Location Durham City
Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 1100

Course Content


This is a two-year course, which educates and trains graduate students to be conservators capable of researching, analysing, cleaning, preserving and caring for a wide range of archaeological and museum objects.

It is intended for those who wish to become practising artefact conservators, or work in the fields of artefact research or preventive conservation. Graduates of the course will normally work in museums or large heritage organisations such the National Trust or English Heritage.

Graduate students are drawn from a wide range on disciplines, but manual dexterity, a very basic knowledge of chemistry and an enthusiasm and desire to work with museum objects are essential.

Course Structure


  • Conservation Theory
  • Conservation Skills
  • Artefact Studies
  • Care of Collections
  • Conservation Practice
  • Professional Practice.

Course Learning and Teaching

The programme is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes as well as an industrial placement. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate among Conservators in that area. Practicals then provide opportunities for students to implement and develop their skills, based on the knowledge that they have gained through their lectures and through independent study outside the programmes formal contact hours. Self-learning development packages allow students to continue their learning in a structured way outside the practical sessions. The industrial placement forms a major part of the contact time in the programme for Professional Practitioners, allowing students to gain direct experience of practical and applied skills in Conservation. Industrial partners include the Museum of London, National Museum of Wales and Victoria & Albert Museum. 

The balance of these types of activities changes over the course of the programme, as students develop their knowledge, skills and the ability as independent learners and practitioners that is one of the key attributes that the programme develops in its students. The programme therefore prepares students for work or further study once they have completed the programme, with an emphasis on taking their learning from the classroom to real life situations in Museums and conservation laboratories. All teaching is delivered by qualified conservators.

In the first two terms of the first year students typically attend 4-5 hours a week of lectures, 6 hours of practical work including seminars, 3 hours of structured self-development learning and up to 9 hours of conservation skills working in the conservation laboratory. Outside timetabled contact hours, students are also expected to undertake their own independent study to prepare for their classes and broaden their subject knowledge.

The balance shifts in the third term, as students develop their abilities as independent learners through supervised practical conservation work for 4 days a week over 10 weeks and create a portfolio of their work and reflections.

This move towards greater emphasis on independent learning and acting in the role of professional conservator continues in the final year, where students have a placement in a working conservation lab for 9 months. They gain experience of working with a wide range of material and develop further their practical skills, within a real-life working environment. A focus is placed upon problem solving and organisational and managerial skills, under the supervision of a professional conservator.

The department also has an exciting programme of weekly one hour research seminars which students are strongly encouraged to attend.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

Note there is a maximum of 10 places available on the course each year, due to size of the teaching laboratory.

A good second class honours degree (typically 2:1 Honours) or international equivalent OR professional qualification or two years relevant work-based experience; and a pass in mathematics (Grade C or above at GCSE level, or equivalent).

Applicants without a degree will be required to demonstrate sufficient academic capability to satisfactorily complete this degree.

Chemistry Requirements, one of the following:
  • An 'AS' level in Chemistry or its equivalent
  • A degree which included a significant science component, e.g. Biology or Material Science
  • An A, B or C grade for Chemistry in a Scottish 'Higher' or similar high grade in the Irish 'Leaving Certificate' may also be acceptable
  • Completed university level course units in Inorganic and Organic chemistry - this is particularly appropriate for students from North America
  • Completed the 'Chemistry for Conservators' course. This is a correspondence course, which last approximately 6 months. Details of the course are available here.

All students need to be able to accurately distinguish between colours and safely handle objects, scalpels, and other conservation tools. Students may be required to undertake tests to ascertain the levels of some of these skills if they are invited to visit.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £10,400.00
Home Student £10,400.00
Island Student £10,400.00
International non-EU Student £23,100.00

Please note that the above fees apply to year 1 of the full-time course only for students commencing their study in 2016/17. A lower fee is charged in year 2. The year 2 fee for students commencing their study in 2016/17 has not yet been set. For reference, home students commencing their study in 2015/16 were charged £9,900 in year 1 and £3,600 in year 2; overseas students commencing their study in 2015/16 were charged £22,000 in year 1 and £7,900 in year 2.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding

Career Opportunities

Department of Archaeology

Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.

For further information on career options and employability, including the results of the Destination of Leavers survey, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages.

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Overseas Visit Schedule

Postgraduate Visits


Department Information

Department of Archaeology

Our internationally recognised research expertise can provide you with some of the best resources available for archaeological research. We have one of only three commercial archaeology units in the UK based in a university department and you will have access to experts in fieldwork. Our taught Masters courses range from the general to the specific, allowing you to make a choice based on your individual interests and learning style. Many of our programmes have been designed with two pathways, professional or research, so you can adapt your degree to your career goals. Amongst the best in the field: our MA in Museum and Artefact Studies and MA in Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects programmes are particularly strong for professional or vocational development, while the MSc in Archaeological Science and all strands of the MA in Archaeology are ideal preparation for continuing your academic career. Our unique MSc in Palaeopathology is always an attractive option for students with either goal in mind, or we can accommodate you as a MRes, MPhil, or PhD student with your own specialised research topic.


Ranked 2nd in the UK for grade point average (GPA) and 1st for research intensity in REF 2014.

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