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Management of Archaeological Material

  • Delivery:
  • Credits:

The course hopes to provide students with a better understanding of the structure and decay of organic materials and metals, how they survive in a marine environment and the conservation processes that are required to ensure their long-term preservation. They should have a thorough understanding as to what they can do themselves and when to call in the services of the professional conservator.

Key information

Next start date:

2 November 2015


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


1 week


Nautical Archaeological Society Part III

Entry requirements:

This course is open to anyone with a relevant undergraduate degree. Alternatively, non-graduates and professionals with significant and relevant work experience, who can also demonstrate an ability to both complete and benefit from the course will be considered.

Course details

Lectures on this course are delivered by guest lecturers, as well as our own academic experts. These will include conservators, museum curators, museum managers, find specialists and heads of collections from across the south of England.

Course programme

Please note this outline is provisional and may be subject to change.

Day 1

  • In situ degradation of finds in the marine environment
  • In situ preservation of finds in the terrestrial and marine environment
  • First Aid, storage and packaging.

Day 2

  • Field trip: Fleet Air Arm Museum

Day 3

  • Conservation of waterlogged organic materials: wood: structure and decay: condition, assessment of wood, criteria for selecting conservation treatments, freeze-drying, the sulphur problem.

Day 4

  • Conservation of waterlogged organic materials including leather, rope, textiles and bone
  • First aid treatment, storage and packaging following recovery
  • Conservation treatments including freeze-drying versus air-drying, which chemicals to use to consolidate, etc.
  • How to deal with composite objects
  • Long-term storage / display requirements.

Day 5

The corrosion, conservation and investigation of metals from a marine environment, with the emphasis on archaeological metals:

  • Chemical, physical and biological, concretion formation
  • Metal/organic composites, and impacts from corrosion staining upon other artefacts
  • Principals of storage, in the field and long-term
  • Assessment techniques, including x-radiography and concretion removal
  • An introduction to moulding and casting techniques
  • Desalination processes, electrolysis, chloride monitoring
  • Basic conservation techniques
  • The legal aspects.

Practical sessions will include:

  • Using the microscope for identification of materials
  • Handling archaeological materials
  • What to record before starting the conservation process
  • Assesment of museum collections
  • Reconstruction of pottery
  • X-ray protocols and applications.

You will attend at least one practical session every day.

Field work

You will spend two days working at the Fleet Air Arm Museum. You will attend seminars on the archaeology of aircraft, excavating an aircraft, handing collections and you will be assessing the museum's collections.

Fees and funding

The fee for this unit/short course: £600.00.

Additional fee: £200 if you wish to take the academic assessment.

With this type of course (ie. a short course) you will find that the cost of studying is already broken down into smaller, more manageable amounts (in comparison to a full degree, whether at postgraduate or undergraduate levels).

Additional funding help may sometimes be received from your employer given the relevance to your chosen career, if you are a previous student of BU you will receive a discount on your course fees, but other funding options are limited. 

See our fees and funding section for more information. 

How to apply

If you have any further questions about the course, please email Norman Stock or call him on 01202 965575. 

​Alternatively, please contact our askBU Enquiry Service for more information.

Additional information

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