Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module ARCH41330: Conservation Skills

Department: Archaeology

ARCH41330: Conservation Skills

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap
Tied to F4K507
Tied to F4K707


  • None.


  • Conservation Theory.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to acquire a capacity for undertaking a range of laboratory, fieldwork, recording, cleaning, adhesion and replication skills at a professional and advanced level.
  • To develop the students capacity for good ethical judgement in relation to conservation.


  • This module comprises a series of practicals, which enable students to acquire the advanced skills of examining, conserving, packaging and replicating archaeological and museum objects. A series of seminars are designed to engage students in a series of ethical debates to develop their judgmental skills to a professional level.

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.
  • 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 substantive understanding of the history and organisation of conservation, and the key ethical ideas and debates that underpin it.
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 historical and archaeological objects.
  • The skills of object replication (exact three dimensional duplication of an object form), materials testing and protective packaging.
Key Skills:
  • Become familiar with, and gain experience in, methods of analytical investigation.
  • 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. Students shold balance where to use words and where images in this Portfolio, thus only a total word limit is deliberately given.
  • 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 supervised practicals, demonstrations, seminars and self study materials and DUO.
  • Learning is primarily achieved through undertaking practical activities, independent study, seeing demonstrations and participating in discussions.
  • Assessment is achieved through a portfolio of work learning is through reading, discussion and physical practice.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Practicals 30 6 150
Seminars 9 1 9
Demonstrations 3 1 3
Lectures 4 1 4
Self study 119
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Portfolio (6000 words max) Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Object conservation report 1 11% 1
Object conservation report 2 11% 1
Object conservation report 3 11% 1
Materials testing 11% 1
Solvent & Adhesives Testing 11% 1
Seminar Summary 1 11% 1
Seminar Summary 2 11% 1
Box Making 11% 1
Replication 12% 1

Formative Assessment:

The seminar summaries (precis) exercise has a formative piece of work in the Conservation Theory module taken by all students doing the Conservation Skills module. The object reports are based on laboratory record cards completed in the practicals.

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