Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology (BSc)

Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology offers students interested in arts, applied science and practical work an opportunity to combine all of these interests within an exciting and challenging degree programme.

Cardiff University specialises in the conservation of museum objects and archaeological material, using both preventive and interventive conservation procedures. All of our teaching is set against the cultural context of the objects undergoing treatment. Working on these objects you will consider the needs of owners, current and future users of objects in designing your treatments. Working in the laboratories from day one, you will have direct access to many state of the art conservation and scientific facilities.

Key facts

UCAS CodeF481
Duration3 years
Typical places availableThe School of History, Archaeology and Religion typically has 320 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School of History, Archaeology and Religion typically receives 1800 applications.
Scholarships and bursaries
Typical A level offerBBC Chemistry preferred.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerGrade A in the Core, with a BB at A-level
Typical International Baccalaureate offer28-36 points, including scores of 5/4 at Higher Level
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark

There is currently no QAA benchmarking statement for Conservation so at present the Archaeology statement acts as a guide.

Academic School
Admissions tutor(s)

Mrs Sarah Tovey , Course Administrator

    Dr Andrew Cochrane , Admissions Tutor

      The strong vocational nature of the Cardiff degree programme is recognised within the conservation profession and this factor provides conservation students with good job opportunities.

      Year one

      First year conservation modules are designed to develop an underpinning knowledge of conservation theory and practice. This includes developing academic and practical skills within investigative practices such as x-radiography, microscopy, photography and instrumental analysis. An introduction to archaeology is provided via modules which you select.

      Year two

      The second and third year builds on this platform via theory modules, practical laboratory work and museum vacation placements in conservation. Graduates emerge as practical conservators who are able to preserve and care for a wide range of material, which is typically found within museums. They are also able to communicate their activities to others.

      Module titleModule codeCredits
      Conservation of Wet Archaeological WoodHS239210 credits
      Analysis of ArtefactsHS232010 credits
      Practical Projects 1HS233040 credits
      Organic Objects: Decay & ConservationHS233520 credits
      Museums Collections ManagementHS242120 credits

      Year three

      The second and third year builds on this platform via theory modules, practical laboratory work and museum vacation placements in conservation. Graduates emerge as practical conservators who are able to preserve and care for a wide range of material, which is typically found within museums. They are also able to communicate their activities to others.

      Module titleModule codeCredits
      Organic Objects: Decay & ConservationHS233520 credits
      Practical Projects 2HS233140 credits
      Conservation Research ProjectHS242720 credits
      Conservation of Wet Archaeological WoodHS239210 credits
      Analysis of ArtefactsHS232010 credits
      The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

      The School of History, Archaeology and Religion enables you to develop in a high-quality learning environment, supported by a student-orientated approach to the acquisition of knowledge and skills. You will develop a range of intellectual skills: critical thinking, evaluating evidence, constructing evidence-based arguments, and presenting opinions effectively in writing and in debate. Additionally, you will gain practical skills such as team-working, independent research, and time management. Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, practicals, field trips, and one-to-one tutorials. You will also undertake independent study and research, with guidance from tutors. Assessment, including coursework, exams, practical work, and oral presentations, will test the different skills you have learned. You will study in a working laboratory and will contribute to its safe and efficient working, ensuring that you also gain skills in safe practice and resource management. 

      Conservation practice is taught in a problem-based learning style. Within the 40 credit practical projects model you will be faced with a series of artefacts requiring some kind of care or investigation and you will be encouraged to develop conservation strategies for them. Each strategy will be unique and you will record your learning in a reflective learning log. Over the degree the complexity of the challenges will increase including project management and liaison with stakeholders: preparing you for professional practice. 

      Your practical work relates to and is informed by the theory led modules which are taught in a more traditional lecture and tutorial style.You will receive written and oral feedback from module tutors on your assessed course work and you will receive a full formative evaluation and report in the midpoint of the second and third years as part of the practical projects module. You will be allocated a personal tutor who you will meet with regularly throughout the year to discuss your personal development. Every member of staff has weekly office hours advertising when they are available for students to drop in for further support.

      Students will be expected to comply with defined standards of professionalism in the laboratory to include: timekeeping; tidiness; safe working; respect for equipment; contribution to laboratory maintenance and the maintenance of the safety and security of artefacts.

      You will undertake a weekly practical class where their ability to understand and apply conservation theory will be developed using real cultural heritage artefacts. You will carry out precise cleaning tasks which require good fine motor control. Conservation students will also need good colour vision, and be able to visually examine objects utilising appropriate equipment such as microscopes (sometimes using them for significant periods of time to carry out tasks). You will be expected to keep up-to-date written logs of work. Practical classes will be supported with a series of seminars where you will be encouraged to develop your understanding of the nature of cultural material, how to devise a research strategy, how to devise a treatment programme and the implications of current actions on the future of artefacts. 

      You will be encouraged to prepare for practical classes with guidance from staff on self-directed research. We encourage any student to discuss special needs in advance of applying for this degree. 

      You will undertake a minimum of eight weeks of vacation placement in an approved conservation laboratory in the UK or abroad, normally split over two summer vacations.

      As the BSc Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology has a strong vocational element many of our graduates aim to find related employment and our own record shows that between 70 – 75% of graduates move into related employment or education. Some conservation graduates move into research degrees many choosing to take MSc or higher qualifications with us. Other graduates utilise their extensive transferable skills in communication, problem solving, project management, independent thinking, and scientific theory and practice to compete very successfully in a wide range of other fields.

      The School believes in giving its graduates the best opportunities to find employment. We organise interactive workshops with the Careers Service to help students identify their skills and attributes. 

      In 2013/14, 91% of the School's graduates who were available for work reported they were in employment and/or further study within six months of graduation.


      • Conservator
      • Curator

      You will undertake a minimum of 8 weeks of vacation placement in an approved conservation laboratory in the UK or abroad, normally split over two summer vacations.


      3 Year(s)

      Next intake

      September 2016

      Places available

      Typical places available



      Applications received

      Typical applications received




      QAA subject benchmark

      QAA subject benchmark

      There is currently no QAA benchmarking statement for Conservation so at present the Archaeology statement acts as a guide.

      What are the aims of this Programme?

      The BSc Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology is designed as a professional training in conservation practice. Conservation involves the investigation, care and preservation of cultural material. The Cardiff degree encompasses culture, science and archaeology blended together within a framework of practical applications. Rarely does a university degree contain such a wide range of subjects. If you like the freedom and challenge of developing your own ideas then conservation may well be the subject for you. At Cardiff we focus on teaching a strong academic base, which is transferred into practice via practical work on archaeological and historical objects. This is carried out in purpose designed conservation laboratories. The linkage between theory and practice that this provides produces conservation graduates with a wide range of educational and life skills - more so than other more traditional degree schemes.

      What is expected of me?

      After a first year delivering  underpinning skills in conservation practice, basic conservation theory, materials science of polymers and archaeological theory, students progress to a system where laboratory work on cultural objects is their focus of study. During these classes the staff meet students on a one to one basis and discuss conservation options for their objects and advise on their execution. A great deal of emphasis is placed on students developing independent thought, planning, decision making and action. Built around these classes are the theory modules, which provide clear overviews of the structure, decay and conservation of materials such as metals, inorganics and organics, as well as analysis techniques and technology. Work is intensive. Virtually the whole of each week is occupied with lectures, seminars, demonstrations and practical work. The many ways of approaching and solving particular conservation problems form the basis for lively discussion between staff and students in practical and seminar sessions.

      Students are expected to be punctual, reliable and professional in their attendance. As this is a vocational course with strong connections to the profession, we expect our graduates to maintain and enhance the reputation of those who have gone before.

      The Department expects that Students will:

      • attend all classes, punctually, and to explain any absence (in advance where possible)
      • prepare adequately for and contribute to seminars and tutorials
      • avoid plagiarism (plagiarism being work which uses the words or ideas of others without acknowledging them as such)
      • take responsibility for their own learning, and with appropriate guidance  monitor their own progress and take account of the feedback given
      • show respect for their fellow students, tutors and the learning environment
      • manage their time effectively so that they are adequately prepared for all classes and assignments
      • complete their assessments on time and in compliance with the instructions given
      •  take responsibility for advising themselves of the regulations governing assessments
      • ensure that they are registered for the requisite number of modules and that the academic registry are aware of which modules they are taking
      • read all handbooks carefully and take appropriate action
      • regularly access their University e-mail account
      • ask members of staff before using their names as referee
      • comply with all health, safety and environment directions.

      How is this Programme Structured?

      BSc Conservation is a three year degree programme. It is incrementally structured to deliver the knowledge, skills and thought processes required to become an independent researcher, equipped for high-level professional employment. In the first year students take 80 credits of core conservation modules and select a further 40 credits of archaeology modules. Modules for years 2 and 3 are offered in alternate years. Students take 100 credits of core modules and are able to choose a further 20 credits from the archaeology modules.

      Year One

      Core Modules in Year One:

      1. Introduction to Investigative Cleaning
      2. Introduction to Conservation Practice 
      3. Polymers in Conservation

      Year Two

      Core Modules in Year Two and Three:

      1. Analysis of artefacts
      2. Conservation of wet archaeological wood
      3. Technology and Materials
      4. Museums Collections management
      5. Organic Objects: decay and conservation
      6. Conservation Dissertation
      7. Metals: corrosion and conservation
      8. Inorganic objects: decay and conservation
      9. Practical Projects

      Core Module in Year Three Only:

      • Conservation research project

      Will I need any specific equipment to study this Programme?

      All students are provided with a Lab coat and toolkit. There is access to photography and IT provision although many students opt to bring tablets or lap tops or cameras to support their study.

      Understanding the structure and properties of materials requires a good contextual grasp of analytical science and its uses. In addition, a solid understanding of the technology used to construct objects is crucial for successful conservation. To meet these needs Conservation at Cardiff has a wide range of analytical equipment including a Scanning Electron Microscope with electron dispersive and wavelength dispersive detectors and a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer.  In 2014 Conservation at Cardiff acquired a compact Phoenix™ Conservation Laser to ensure students are being taught the latest conservation techniques. There is also state of the art X-ray diffraction for studying crystalline materials such as corrosion products and pigments, as well as Fourier-Transform infra-red for examining organic and inorganic materials. To better understand the properties of materials there is a climatic chamber for testing their response to fluctuating atmospheric moisture and temperature. A wide range of microscopes, photographic facilities and x-radiography are available to support investigation and analysis of objects undergoing conservation. Treatment facilities include a freeze-drying system for treating waterlogged materials, such as wood and leather, and an airbrasive suite for the investigation of metal surfaces and removal of corrosion. Research tools include meters than can record metal corrosion by logging oxygen consumption. This equipment is housed in a suite of  purpose built conservation laboratories include dedicated rooms for analysis, x-radiography, microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and wet materials, as well as the objects teaching  laboratories with a secure object store.

      What skills will I practise and develop?

      Conservation presents a good opportunity to develop transferable skills for employment or further research. The degree requires intellectual problem solving, personal judgement based on available data, and systematic evaluation of options for solving problems. Students are also encouraged to develop skills of time and resource management, team working, communication, safe working practice and are expected to operate in a punctual and professional manner.

      How will I be taught?

      At Cardiff, conservation is taught as an investigative science focused on practical outcomes. During the first year of the degree scheme, underpinning conservation skills are taught and a short introduction to archaeology is provided. Years two and three are centred on laboratory work supported by a wide range of theory modules covering technology of objects, analytical techniques, materials science and conservation methods. Emphasis is on processes of thought and decision making, educational goals, transferable skills, professional conduct and linkage between theory and practice. This combination ensures that Cardiff graduates are well equipped to investigate, record and care for a wide range of cultural materials. Conservation practice is taught in a problem- based learning style. Within the 40 credit practical projects module students are presented with a number of artefacts requiring some kind of preservation, care or investigation for which they develop unique conservation strategies. As the degree progresses the complexity of the challenges will increase to include project management and liaison with stakeholders as preparation for professional practice. Practical work both relates to and is informed by the theory led modules, which are taught in a more traditional lecture and tutorial style.During the degree, students engage with a diverse range of collections from museums, archives, excavations and historic houses; one day you might see you consolidating delicate paint layers on a 26thdynasty Egyptian polychrome coffin and another you will be reconstructing a Roman glass dish. All students work on archaeological materials, which might include a wet medieval leather shoe or a bronze Roman brooch, on social history items such as an embroidered slipper or painted ivory shrine and there are opportunities to work on more modern items such as a naval sword or porcelain teapot.

      Students carry out at least eight weeks of placement in conservation laboratories. This takes place mostly in museums including institutions such as the Imperial War Museum, National Museum of Ireland, National Museum of Iceland, the Museum of London, the Mary Rose Trust, Bristol Museum and the Royal Armouries. Other students have worked on excavations of international note, such as the excavations at Çatalhöyük in Turkey or the Athenian Agora. These placements provide a direct link with the reality of the conservation workplace and allow you to create links with professional conservators, helping you to begin to develop a professional network for a future career in conservation. They also offer an opportunity for students to specialise their skills in areas such as waterlogged wood, metals and museum environment. Normally the placements subdivide into four weeks in each of the first and second summer vacations Students are offered a small financial stipend towards their placement costs.

      Students undertake weekly practical classes where their ability to understand and apply conservation theory is developed using real cultural heritage artefacts. They carry out precise cleaning tasks that require good and fine motor control. They also need good colour vision, and to be able to visually examine objects utilising appropriate equipment such as microscopes (sometimes using them for significant periods of time).Since one 40 credit core module requires students to demonstrate their ability to carry out practical conservation tasks, this limits the availability of alternative forms of assessment for disabled students.

      If you have concerns about your ability to participate fully in the degree you may find visiting during an open day useful, or you could contact a member of staff for further advice.

      How will I be assessed?

      Assessment & Feedback:

      Students will receive written and oral feedback from module tutors on their assessed course work and a full formative evaluation at the midpoint of the second and third years within their practical projects module. Feedback occurs as formative written work, seminar discussion, written advice on course work, tutorials and research project supervision. At least one third of the assessment will be based on conservation laboratory work, with the remainder combining essays, reports and exams.  Students provide oral presentations in certain courses. The marking criteria for each module are linked to the learning outcomes for the module and of the degree as a whole.

      Progression is built into assessment. Students execute smaller and simpler guided tasks in Year one, with directive support from staff, and thereafter challenges increase. In the practical projects modules conservation tasks evolve from the test cleaning of single objects to developing conservation strategies for complex items. Students in Years Two and Three are offered formative feedback in a range of modules, including a detailed summary on their first term of practical work. In Year Three students take the independent research project on a topic that they agree with a supervisor. This allows students to begin to develop specialisation and to develop independent research skills.

      How will I be supported?

      The scheme is taught via a range of recognised formats including seminars, lectures and tutorials. There is extensive laboratory based practical work on objects from museums and excavations. During these sessions there is extensive dialogue between staff and students. Whenever possible, students are encouraged to design conservation treatments that are then discussed with staff. The goals of the degree scheme are intellectual and practical independence at a professional level. Students are expected to adopt an interactive approach with teaching staff. As a consequence of the high degree of transfer of theory into practice and contact time with staff, we target small groups of students for admission to the degree scheme.

      Students are encouraged to actively reflect on their own experience and learning in a reflective log known as a project note book. These notebooks provide an opportunity for the students to record as they learn, allowing reflection to maximise their learning experience. Students are offered feedback each term on their reflective learning log.

      Upon enrolment each student is assigned a Personal Tutor with whom they can discuss and reflect upon their academic progress, as well as seek support and advice for any problems or circumstances that adversely affect their studies. If your Personal Tutor is unavailable, and you wish urgently to discuss matters with a member of staff, you may seek advice from another member of staff. Every member of staff has weekly office hours in which you may seek further support.

      What are the Learning Outcomes of this Programme?

      Graduates from this programme will be able to:

      • Combine science, practical skills, ethics and aesthetics into a balanced understanding of conservation practice and demonstrate an in-depth understanding of this in theory and in practice.
      • Understand the ethical basis of the conservation profession and the responsibilities of the conservation professional to cultural heritage and to wider society.
      • Use critical thinking, analysis and synthesis when evaluating complex conservation problems and developing appropriate practical solutions to solve them.
      • Demonstrate independent analysis, interpretation and research.
      • Generate, assess, interpret and manipulate data from a range of sources.
      • Understand the structure, decay and conservation of cultural materials and recognise this in cultural heritage items.
      • Implement treatment-based, preventive or conservation management measures using a broad range of equipment found in a conservation laboratory.
      • Demonstrate the ability to reflect on and learn from practice.
      • Identify the value of persuasive communication methods for a range of audiences and deliver these verbally.

      Other information

      As part of the assessment for the practical projects modules in Year 2 and 3 students are offered the opportunity to submit work for formal assessment, which has also been used to build their professional profile. This can include a portfolio, publications such as book and conference reviews, conference papers and posters, public blogs or museums activities such as hands-on children’s introduction to conservation. In this way students are encouraged to begin to build their reputation before graduation and many students have found success through awards for posters, publication and involvement in successful events.

      Admissions tutors

      Mrs Sarah Tovey , Course Administrator

        Dr Andrew Cochrane , Admissions Tutor

          Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.