Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module ARCH40145: Conservation Theory

Department: Archaeology

ARCH40145: Conservation Theory

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 45 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.
Tied to F4K507
Tied to F4K707


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to develop the knowledge required for undertaking the conservation of organic, inorganic and metallic, archaeological and museum objects at a professional level.
  • To appreciate the history, organisation and present day aims of conservation as a discipline and profession.


  • The module covers the physical, chemical and biological decay mechanisms for archaeological and museum object materials, the theoretical underpinning for conservation treatments and the development of the subject of conservation.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A substantive understanding of the history and organisation of conservation, and the key ethical ideas and debates that underpin it.
  • A detailed understanding at an advanced level of archaeological and historic materials and technologies, in order to appreciate and recover the information contained in every object.
  • 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 within 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.
Key Skills:
  • A well-developed understanding of organisational and managerial skills (necessary to secure and utilise the resources that will be required to solve the future problems which conserving our heritage will present).
  • Communication skills in written, image, computer and verbal formats to a professional standard.
  • 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 primarily provided through lectures, visits and DUO. Learning is primarily achieved through independent study, lectures, discussions, visits, observing objects their decay and treatment. Assessment is achieved through essays & short answer test.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 18 2 36
Visits 2 5 10
Self study 404
Total 450

Summative Assessment

Component: 2 essays Component Weighting: 67%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words 50% 1
Essay 2 3000 words 50% 1
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 33%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Exam 20Q, 1.5 hours 100% 1

Formative Assessment:

Essay (3000 words).

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