This is a two-year course, which trains graduate students to be conservators of archaeological and museum objects. Students learn to research, analyse, clean, preserve and care for a wide range of artefacts and they learn how to make decisions to help safeguard this material for the future.
The course is intended for those who wish to become practicing artefact conservators, or who want to work in the fields of artefact research or preventive conservation. Graduates of the course now work in a wide variety of museums as well as large heritage organisations, such as the National Trust and English Heritage. Course participants are drawn from a wide range of disciplines. However, manual dexterity, a basic knowledge of chemistry and the desire to work with museum objects are all essential prerequisites.
The first year consists of 11 months intensive teaching in Durham. The second year is typically an industrial placement in a conservation laboratory at a major museum, although students may also opt to stay in Durham and undertake an independent research project.
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In the final year, you will spend nine months working on placement in a conservation lab. You will gain experience working with a wide range of materials and further develop your 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.
For students who prefer to follow a more research-oriented route, you can opt instead to undertake a second year research project. In this project, students acquire competence in the practical 'hands on conservation' skills necessary to care for and conserve a wide range of archaeological and museum artefacts, as well as the academic and organisational skills to take on research at a high level; developing research ideas, managing investigation projects, interfacing with archaeologists, curators, scientists and conservators in order to solve the complex conservation and archaeological problems posed by ancient and historic artefacts.
With its mixture of theoretical instruction and hands-on experience, the conservation programme at Durham is excellent preparation for a career in conservation. The instruction and internships gave me a strong foundation and provided me with the skills, judgment and confidence in my abilities necessary to succeed in the field. As a practicing archaeological objects conservator I still regularly draw on the resources and experience I gained in my time at Durham.