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Course content

This is a two-year course, which educates and trains graduate students to be conservators capable of researching, analysing, cleaning, preserving and caring for a wide range of archaeological and museum objects.

It is intended for those who wish to become practising artefact conservators, or work in the fields of artefact research or preventive conservation. Graduates of the course will normally work in museums or large heritage organisations such the National Trust or English Heritage.

Graduate students are drawn from a wide range on disciplines, but manual dexterity, a very basic knowledge of chemistry and an enthusiasm and desire to work with museum objects are essential.

Course Structure

Modules:
-Conservation Theory
-Conservation Skills
-Artefact Studies
-Care of Collections
-Conservation Practice
-Dissertation

Learning and Teaching

The programme is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes as well as a dissertation. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate among Conservators in that area. Practicals then provide opportunities for students to implement and develop their skills, based on the knowledge that they have gained through their lectures and through independent study outside the programmes formal contact hours. Self-learning development packages allow students to continue their learning in a structured way outside the practical sessions. The dissertation allows students to develop advanced research skills in an aspect of conservation or artefact studies.

The balance of these types of activities changes over the course of the programme, as students develop their knowledge, skills and the ability as independent learners and practitioners that is one of the key attributes that the programme develops in its students. The programme therefore prepares students them for work or further study once they have completed the programme, with an emphasis on taking their learning from the classroom to real life situations in Museums and conservation laboratories. All teaching is delivered by qualified conservators.

In the first two terms of the first year students typically attend 4-5 hours a week of lectures, 6 hours of practical work including seminars, 3 hours of structured self-development learning and up to 9 hours of conservation skills working in the conservation laboratory. Outside timetabled contact hours, students are also expected to undertake their own independent study to prepare for their classes and broaden their subject knowledge.

The balance shifts in the third term, as students develop their abilities as independent learners through supervised practical conservation work for 4 days a week over 10 weeks and create a portfolio of their work and reflections.

The emphasis on using the independent study and research skills developed in the first year of the course is continued through the dissertation, which marks out the researcher route. Under the supervision of a member of academic staff with whom they will typically have ten one-to-one supervisory meetings, students undertake a detailed study of a particular area resulting in a significant piece of independent research.

The department also has an exciting programme of weekly one hour research seminars which students are strongly encouraged to attend.

Visit the Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects (Diss) (MA) page on the Durham University website for more details!

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