VA7018 - Conservation Science

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What will I learn on this module?

As a Preventive Conservator you will be responsible for minimising the deterioration of artefacts in your care. In order to do so with confidence and competence you need to understand the physical and chemical characteristics of the materials from which the artefacts have been made as well as the factors that can impact on their condition.
In the science component of the module you will be introduced to basic chemistry and physics so that you can understand the characteristics of the respective materials on a molecular level and recognize or anticipate the degradation patterns, which can be triggered by external factors such as the environment and the materials used to provide storage, display and packing for transit.
In the environmental management component you will learn how to identify, evaluate, monitor, mitigate and manage the risks that might impact on the condition collections. You will acquire the knowledge and skills to develop, implement and interpret environmental monitoring and management strategies. You will learn how to identify and select appropriate materials for storage, display and transit. You will learn about the legal frameworks that govern professional practice, public indemnity and liability.
What you will learn during this module will be challenging, exciting and fundamental to your future professional practice

How will I learn on this module?

Throughout the module your learning will be pro-active. In the science component you will learn by working through the learning materials in the e learning portal (elp) and identifying the areas for which you require further guidance. Every week you have the opportunity to upload any queries to the science discussion boards, which are used to encourage communication across the cohort and for tutors to provide formative feedback in a timely manner. Your understanding of the science component (60% of marks) will be evaluated as it develops through three online tests that are spread across the semester. This stepped approach ensures that any misunderstandings are resolved as early as possible so that you can continue to develop your knowledge and understanding on a firm foundation.

In the environmental management component you will learn by working through a series of presentations located in the elp and completing the assignment. Each week you will contribute to the environmental management discussion boards, which provide an opportunity for you to discuss any issues with your fellow students and start developing the networking skills that are essential to life-long learning and reflective practice. The complex, challenging and often conflicting issues involved in environmental management are fundamental to your professional practice and are drawn together in an assignment (40% of marks) in which you are challenged to evaluate the quality and quantity of data provided in terms of caring for a specific material
You are also encouraged to engage with supplementary reading via the links provided

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported academically by the teaching team who will provide formative feedback throughout the programme and summative feedback in response to the tests and assignment. The summative marks contribute to your overall mark

You will receive formative academic guidance for the Science component via the science discussion boards, which are designed to contextualise the online learning materials, underpin and develop professional practice and enable you to complete the three online science tests, which are assessed immediately and feedback provided automatically via the elp.

You will receive formative academic guidance for the environmental management component in response to your e mail queries, which will enable you to receive clarification on any issues with the learning materials and their contextualisation within professional practice. You will receive summative feedback on the assignment within the timescale required by the university guidelines. All feedback is designed as a constructive evaluation of your performance aimed at developing your knowledge and understanding and contributing to subsequent modules as well as professional practice.

You are also encouraged to continue the development of your personal research during this module through the personal development plan (PDP) set up in the Collections Care module. The opportunity to personalise many assignments allows you to develop your personal research as you progress through the program, which can often help identify the focus for the final dissertation.
Your learning will be underpinned by the latest research drawn together by the teaching team from their collaborative International networks

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Understand the relevance of the materials, creation, deterioration, vulnerability as well as the physical and chemical characteristics of items/collections of movable cultural heritage to their care, preventive conservation and interpretation

2. Understand, develop and implement appropriate strategies, policies and procedures for the care and preventive conservation of items/collections of movable cultural heritage

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. The ability to formulate balanced judgements when considering incomplete or ambiguous data that are communicated clearly to both specialist and non-specialist audiences

4. Demonstrate the ability to take responsibility for your own learning by: selecting the knowledge required to complete assignments from resources available on the elp; identifying appropriate additional resources of knowledge; working on independent and group projects; considering the views of tutors and peers in the development or enhancement of your own work; making constructive use of feedback; determining the focus for the dissertation; shaping their assignments; securing the placement offer and assignment topic and identifying your own learning needs

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity)

5. Demonstrate enthusiasm, curiosity, integrity, ethical and professional awareness in all aspects of work, communication and engagement with others

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment will be carried out in response to materials uploaded to the blogs and through the Discussion Board in which you will prepare and discuss issues and themes relating to a wider range of topics relevant to preventive conservation. Formative assessment will also be carried out through the briefing and development sessions in relation to the second summative assessment.

The first summative assessment will be an assignment (2000 words) on the environment and will constitute 40% of the module mark. The assignment will require you to demonstrate the knowledge and skills developed throughout the module in the application of environmental theory to practice.

The second summative assessment will be online tests reflecting the scientific module content and will constitute 60% of the module mark. You will be assessed on your understanding of key scientific facts and concepts as applied to preventive conservation.





Module abstract

This module introduces you to the scientific principles that underpin the condition and care of the exciting range of materials that have been used in the creation of items of cultural heritage. You will learn about their physical and chemical characteristics as well as, the factors that impact on their condition and deterioration. You will learn how to identify, evaluate, monitor, mitigate and manage the risks that can impact on their condition. You will acquire the knowledge and skills to develop, implement and interpret environmental monitoring and management strategies. Your learning will be underpinned by the latest research in the respective areas drawn from the International network of the teaching team. The module provides a science component as well as an environmental management component, which are both delivered using engaging, interactive materials. This challenging module has been designed to contextualise the science within professional practice.

Course info

Credits 30

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year full-time by distance learning
1 other options available

Department Arts

Location Burt Hall, Newcastle City Campus

City Newcastle

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