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Why Study Conservation?

Stitching an Egyptian textile onto a specially constructed support

What is Conservation?

Conservation helps cultural and heritage objects ‘tell their stories’ now and into the future. Conservation is concerned with the care, repair and protection of cultural and heritage artefacts including archaeology, antiquities and works of art, all of which may be in private hands or stored and exhibited in museums, art galleries, historic homes or archives. Conservation can be broken down into a series of specialisms, including fine art, paper, textiles, ethnographic material, decorative arts and archaeological objects. At the core of Conservation is an understanding of the science of the materials that comprise cultural objects and investigating how these materials react with the environment around them. Using this understanding, conservators are able to prevent or reduce damage to materials. Work may include the design and application of preventive techniques, which limit the effect of the surrounding agencies of decay on an object. Additionally, work may include hands-on interventive conservation designed to arrest chemical decay and/or enhance its physical integrity. All of this work is set within an ethical framework, governed by professional codes of practice.

Why study for Conservation degrees in Cardiff?

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. Students consider the needs of owners, current and future users of objects in designing their treatments. As a result, Cardiff's undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in conservation produce objects conservators who possess specialist knowledge of archaeological material and conservation techniques.

The UK has a strong tradition of teaching and researching conservation. Cardiff University has been at the forefront of the development of the conservation profession both in the UK and internationally. Currently David Watkinson, Head of Conservation sits on the council of IIC, the International Institute for Conservation and Jane Henderson, Professional Tutor, is a Trustee for Icon the Institute for Conservation and the Welsh Federation of Museums and Art Galleries. Cardiff University have been teaching hands-on laboratory based conservation with a strong academic core since the 1970’s. Graduates from Cardiff undergraduate and masters degrees continue to go on to teach, practice, research and lead conservation programmes across the UK and internationally.

Who teaches the conservation degrees?

Conservation teaching is research led. The conservation and conservation science team includes David Watkinson whose ground breaking research on the conservation and corrosion of archaeological iron has led to a cluster of awards; Jane Henderson who has published on collections care topics such as emergency planning and influence techniques; Panagiota Manti whose ground breaking investigation of copper alloy helmets and faience  included the use of synchrotron radiation methods and neutron diffraction at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The teaching team is supplemented by the presence of Phil Parkes, senior conservator who conducts conservation work in the laboratory for museum, government bodies, archaeological units and private clients in the UK and internationally.

Conservation laboratories at Cardiff University

Cardiff University's purpose-designed conservation laboratories include an analytical laboratory, x-radiography room, an objects laboratory, a teaching laboratory, and a specialist library. All laboratories underwent a £700,000, Science Research Investment Fund, refit which added a specialist wet wood area, a dedicated airbrasive room, a specialist microscope and recording room, scanning electron microscope facilities, photographic and digital imaging suite and a study collections resource room.