Institute of Archaeology


Skills for Conservation Management

This course looks at collections management and condition surveys, and at the commissioning, planning and management of conservation projects.

Aims of the course

It is easy for conservators to dream of an ideal world, where conservation 'just happens' and they can spend as long as they like working on objects. But real life is not like that: decisions have to be made about which objects are most in need of conservation, and how the conservation work should be recorded. There are pressures imposed by the opening of exhibitions, by limited finance, by the views of the owner, or by the need to get on with the next job. Colleagues may not see things in the same light as you do: they may be more concerned with visitor numbers, with education or with presentation. All these pressures are part of the daily life of the conservator, and in this course we will look at ways in which pressures are handled and managed in a number of different situations.

The course will develop skills related to conservation management and discuss their implementation within the wider context of heritage institutions. The course will provide an understanding of issues underpinning the planning and management of conservation projects. Students will also gain experience with some of the practical aspects of getting the conservation job 'done'. Practical skills will include photography, documentation, grant applications, team working, use of collection catalogues, among others. Conservation management will be discussed through case studies that will highlight issues related to planning, condition surveys, access, and risk assessment in a range of contexts. There will be visits during which students will meet museum professionals in the work place.

The course thus aims to provide a wide-ranging and challenging introduction to the principles and practice of conservation management and collections management. It is concerned primarily, but not exclusively, with museum and archaeological objects and collections, rather than structures and sites.

The course is a 15 credit course, and is one of the four core courses for the MA in the Principles of Conservation. It can be taken on its own by students on other programmes, or it can be taken with Conservation Practice: Preventive Conservation (ARCL0111)


On successful completion of the course, you should:

  • understand the issues that must be considered in planning and executing conservation;
  • be aware of current approaches to the management and documentation of collections;
  • be aware of approaches to the control or avoidance of deterioration in museum objects;
  • be able to undertake an assessment of museum collections and identify options for improvement.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

    • present reports summarising quantitative data
    • process loans
    • produce documentation for collections
    • produce images using a range of techniques
    • synthesise data and reach appropriate conclusions
    • understand the uses of collection catalogues
    • undertake critical analysis of diverse literature
    • write grants

          Teaching Methods

          The course is taught by lectures, practical sessions, and visits

          Course information

          • Code: ARCL0110 
          • Credits: 15
          • Coordinators: Caitlin O'Grady
          • Methods of Assessment: A report (4000 words) (100%)
          • Prerequisite: not available as an option to those taking other degrees.
          • Handbook: open»

          For registered students


          • Runs every year