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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Archaeology

ARCH41230: Conservation Practice

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to F4K507 Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects (Professional Practice)
Tied to F4K707 Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects (Dissertation)


  • ARCH41330 - Conservation Skills (attended).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to acquire the basic judgement and practical skills of a practicing conservator.


  • In this module students undertake the conservation of three or more complex objects made of a range of materials. The student gains experience in making decisions regarding the conservation treatment of objects, undertaking research, recording, 'hands on' cleaning, stabilisation and restoration work. They also develop an awareness of prioritising and organising their work, securing materials, facilities and working with curators. Additionally, students take part in one group conservation project.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed knowledge of the physical and chemical basis for the decay, stabilisation and conservation processes of ancient and historic materials.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Advanced practical skills necessary for competently cleaning (remove surface accretions and decay products above the original surface), stabilising and restoring (accurate reconstruction or revisualisation) artefacts and a professional knowledge of the safety issues inherent in working in a conservation laboratory.
  • Develop to a professional standard, the judgmental skills necessary for pro-active decision making in conservation work.
  • A mastery of research and recording skills relevant to dealing with the conservation of historical and archaeological objects.
  • Foster group working skills within the field of conservation, learning to work collaboratively, share resources and manage schedules to accommodate the needs of the project and ones coworkers.
  • Develop an understanding of the analytical techniques available within the department and how to use them effectively to plan and justify a conservation treatment.
Key Skills:
  • Develop an understanding of the organisational and management skills (needed to secure and utilise the resources required for carrying out conservation treatments).
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate at a professional level via a wide range of formats (written, use of imagery, verbal and using data.
  • Demonstrate to a professional standard, an ability to undertake research, collect information (data) and critically evaluate it, and to draw appropriate conclusions.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching is almost exclusively provided through supervised practicals and seminars plus a visit. Students engage in report writing and research during the practicals managing their time as appropriate to complete objects and reports.
  • Learning is primarily achieved through practical work and independent study for seminar and portfolio presentation.
  • Assessment is achieved through two object reports. Feedback is given to students orally on a one-on-one basis throughout the module, and in written form on their treatment proposals and seminar presentation.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Practicals 40 7 280
Seminars 1 3 3
Self study 17
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: 2 object conservation reports Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Object conservation report 1 3000 words 50% 1
Object conservation report 2 3000 words 50% 1

Formative Assessment:

Treatment proposals must be written up for each object treated. Feedback will be given on the approach suggested and the research that underpins it. 1 seminar.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University