Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ARCH40190: Professional Practice

Department: Archaeology

ARCH40190: Professional Practice

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 90 Availability Available in 2020/21
Tied to F4K507


  • ARCH40145 Conservation Theory and Method & ARCH41330 Conservation Skills.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to develop the skills of a professional conservator and to experience the responsibilities and pressures present in the working environment. Through this module students develop and demonstrate the judgement, organisation, 'hands on' and preventive skills of a professional conservator.


  • This module comprises working on placement in a working conservation laboratory for 10 months. During the placement students gain experience working with a wide range of archaeological and museum objects and develop a wide range of practical conservation skills. They should also acquire an understanding of the management skills needed to plan conservation activities and to secure the resources needed to support them.

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 and how to apply treatments to these materials.
  • A detailed understanding at an advanced level of the techniques and methodologies used to assess archaeological and historic materials and recover the information contained in an object.
  • A detailed knowledge to professional standard of the techniques to monitoring and control of museum environments.
  • A substantive understanding of the organisation of conservation, and the key ethical ideas and debates that underpin it.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Advanced practical skills necessary for competently cleaning, stabilising, and restoring artefacts.
  • A comprehensive awareness 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:
  • Where appropriate, become familiar with, and gain experience in, methods of analytical investigation.
  • A well-developed understanding of the management skills needed to successfully plan and execute conservation interventions.
  • Communication skills in written, image, computer and verbal formats to a professional standard.
  • Demonstrate to a professional standard an ability to undertake research, collect data, and critically evaluate it, and 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 discussions with the industrial supervisor but is augmented by a visit from the course convenor and feedback on the student's blog and contact via email, skype or other forms of communication.
  • Learning is primarily achieved through working in the industrial placement laboratory and discussions with the professional conservators working in that laboratory, as well as others in the field of conservation, and independent reading..
  • Summative assessment is achieved through a series of activities - a portfolio, reflective essay and research paper. Formative assessment is achieved through a reflective blog, a poster and a seminar.
  • Reflection, technical ability and research are three elements that are key to conservation practice. The tripartite summative seeks to assess each through different activities centered on the placement period. The reflective essay provides a place for the student to reflect on their placement, what they have learned about being a conservator, working in a lab and where they feel they still need to develop as a conservator. The portfolio provides a mechanism for demonstrating their technical proficiency and is a valuable tool for job applications and interviews. The Research paper seeks to assess the student’s decision making and research aptitude. It may be based on a treatment the student has undertaken during their placement or it may be an independently designed research project focusing on preventive conservation or scientific research.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorial 1 3 3
Seminars 1 1 1
Self study & practical work 896
Total 900

Summative Assessment

Component: Portfolio of Professional Practice Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Portfolio 8-10 projects 40% 1
Reflective Essay 2000 words 20% 1
Research Paper 8000 words 40% 1

Formative Assessment:

Monthly personal blog postings Poster 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