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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

-Conservation Theory
-Conservation Skills
-Artefact Studies
-Care of Collections
-Conservation Practice
-Professional Practice

Learning and Teaching

The programme is delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical classes as well as an industrial placement. 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 industrial placement forms a major part of the contact time in the programme for Professional Practitioners, allowing students to gain direct experience of practical and applied skills in Conservation. Industrial partners include the Museum of London, National Museum of Wales and Victoria & Albert Museum.

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 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.

This move towards greater emphasis on independent learning and acting in the role of professional conservator continues in the final year, where students have a placement in a working conservation lab for 9 months. They gain experience of working with a wide range of material and develop further their practical skills, within a real-life working environment. A focus is placed upon problem solving and organisational and managerial skills, under the supervision of a professional conservator. 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 (PP) MA page on the Durham University website for more details!





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