Institute of Archaeology

Issues in Conservation: Understanding Objects

This course provides as introduction to material culture and technology, and examines the use and significance of objects in cultural heritage contexts.

Aims of the course

This course focuses on the nature of the objects we conserve. It enables you to explore the ways in which objects are made, regarded and used, and the ways in which their condition and meaning can shift over time or in different contexts. It aims to give you experience in examination and condition assessment of objects, and development of statements of significance.

The course is linked to G141 Issues in Conservation: Context of Conservation and together these make up one of the two main core courses for the MA in Principles of Conservation (the other core being Conservation in Practice consisting of G139 Conservation Management and G140 Preventive Conservation)


At the end of the course, you should:

  • understand the material characteristics of both inorganic and organic artefacts
  • be familiar with the ways in which different values and meanings are assigned to objects
  • understand the concept of condition and its relevance to conservation
  • be able to use a range of examination techniques
  • be able to assess the condition of a range of museum objects
  • be aware of the issues relating to significance and conservation of particular
  • classes of object such as art objects and ethnographic artefacts

Learning Outcomes

  • application of acquired knowledge and skills
  • critical reflection
  • safe handling and examination of museum objects
  • team-working
  • documentation and report writing skills

Teaching Methods

The course is taught through weekly two-hour lectures, small group tutorials or practical sessions. There will be a number of museum visits.

You are expected to take an active role in discussion during the lectures. Lectures have weekly recommended readings, which help you to follow and contribute to discussion.

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG142
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Renata Peters
  • Prerequisite: not available as an option to those taking other degrees.
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students


  • Runs every year

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