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Care of Collections (MSc)

Course Aims

Students interested in careers within the museum sector have an opportunity to improve their career prospects within the museum profession by obtaining specialist training in the care of museum collections with the School of History, Archaeology and Religion. The MSc in Care of Collections provides opportunities for graduates from conservation and other disciplines to study preventive conservation and care and management of cultural and heritage collections.

Course Description

The MSc Care of Collections is vocational; the programme is directly relevant to the activities of museums, historic houses and similar institutions. Seminars, lectures and assessed work aim to combine theoretical knowledge with realistic practical applications. The programme will also encourage students to develop their verbal and written communication skills. In this way, the qualification will contribute to the student's experience and qualifications which will be relevant when seeking work within the heritage sector. For students not seeking employment in this field, the MSc provides a stimulating and unusual taught Masters scheme that embodies elements of art and science and includes a wide range of transferable skills.

The course is modular and has a common study structure with the MSc in Professional Conservation and the MA in Archaeology - the taught element lasts for the first two semesters of study and is assessed at the end of this period; this is followed by a dissertation. Most teaching occurs on Thursdays and Fridays although extra tutorials and field trips may be held on Wednesdays.

Students take a total of 180 credits of modules, consisting of:

  • 40 credits of core skills modules
  • 40 credits of a compulsory module
  • 40 credits of option modules selected by the student
  • 60 credit dissertation (topic or theme chosen by the student in consultation with academic staff).

Available Modules

HST310   Museums, Objects and Environment

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of museums and their objects. The module includes the use and curation of objects in museums as well as an outline of their structure and decay. The term museum is used to cover a broad range of cultural heritage collections such as historic houses, galleries and archaeological collections.

HST320   Theory and Practice in the Workplace

A wide range of subject areas from the conservation profession  are addressed, with the primary aim of developing broad ranging skills and abilities in criticism, assessment, presentation and decision making. Emphasis is placed on providing appropriate written reports with particular attention to layout, presentation and content, as well as verbal presentations suitably tailored to audiences. Life skills are linked to the needs of professional conservation by examining specified conservation issues including treatment rationale, treatment assessment, conservation management, estimating for conservation, laboratory design, disaster planning and presenting conservation to the public.

HST 330 Assessment and design for Collections Care

This module aims to provide students with a holistic understanding of collections care by developing an awareness of the needs of cultural collections, the risks to which collections are exposed and strategies to enable the best use of collections while minimising damage rates.

HST340   Instrumental Analysis in Conservation

This module develops knowledge on the principles and use of instrumental analysis techniques in conservation. Students focus on the application of relevant methods in conservation science and artefact analysis. The module also addresses recent applications and new developments to allow students to understand the scope and limitations of analytical techniques and analysis methods

HST592   MSc Conservation Dissertation

In this module students research and write dissertations of no more than 20,000 words. Dissertations may be theory-, practice- or research-based. The dissertation topic is usually closely linked to students’ conservation specialism or special areas of geographical or scientific interest

Special Features

Students will be ‘twinned’ with a real heritage organisation and have the opportunity to study the operation of this organisation and how it relates to the care of collections

  • The programme does not presume a high level of scientific knowledge, which allows it to attract applicants from a wide range of disciplines.
  • There are a high proportion of transferable skills in research, project design and report writing within the degree scheme.
  • The degree offers specialist skills for students building a portfolio of qualifications for entry to the museum sector.

Our approach to teaching and learning:

With the support of the teaching staff, MSc students take an active role in the learning process. Successful postgraduate learning requires independent action from students as they develop their own ideas and communicate their thoughts and questions to staff and to peers. Students are challenged to develop their own ideas, supported by research within a structured and supportive environment. Teaching and assessment are based on verbal communication, discussion groups, activities, reports and essays, as well as an in-depth dissertation. This interactive approach to teaching limits the number of students that we are able to admit to the degree in any one year but it allows students to immerse themselves within the topic whilst finding and developing their own interests and specialisms.

Skills Acquired

Students will acquire a broad range of transferable skills including the ability to :

  • source and synthesis data and apply it in a complex context
  • defend a strategy for collections management in a complex situation with multiple possible outcomes
  • carry out independent research on specialist subjects
  • exercise initiative and personal responsibility, decision-making in complex situations and offer pragmatic evidence based solutions
  • talk with conservators and conservation scientists on the decay of objects
  • understand simple management strategies for the analysis of organisations in context and for planning and managing change
  • recognise and utilise basic influence techniques
  • present information in a professional context
  • acquire an independent learning ability required for continuing professional development

Career Prospects

Graduates from the MSc Care of Collections have gone on to work in a broad range of jobs in the cultural and heritage sector. Graduates have found roles as house stewards, conservator, design officer, collections manager, property manager, preventive conservation officer etc. Other graduates have used the skills from the degree to find roles such as University administrator, civil servants, teacher and archive assistant.

Entry Requirements

1st or upper 2nd class UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject.

Suitable for graduates in archaeology, history, ancient history, conservation, science and chemistry, and other related and relevant disciplines.

International students can find equivalent entry requirements via our website:

Students whose first language is not English will be required to pass an IELTS test (minimum 6.5) or equivalent.

Note: International students pursuing part-time programmes of study are not eligible for Tier 4 (General Student) visas and must have alternative leave to remain in the UK if they intend to study at the University in person.

Contact Information

Ms Jane Henderson

Position:Senior Lecturer (organiser)
Ms Jane Henderson
Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 75629Extension: 75629

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