Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Changing Modern Artefacts: Historical Materials and Methods HISTART5132

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course investigates the factors that cause historical commercial synthetic materials to age and degrade, and how such changes affect the appearance, composition and stability of these materials in historical artefacts.


Fifteen hours a week through lectures, seminars and practical laboratory work for a three-week period.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses





Written essay, 2,000 words (40%)

Written report, 2,000 words (40%)

Practical assessment oral report, 10 mins (20%)

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Develop knowledge of the chemical and physical properties and behaviours of historical synthetic plastics, fibres, colourants and coatings that initiate, accelerate and inhibit their deterioration.

■ Introduce theoretical concepts and practical methodologies to recognise and explain the signs and stages of deterioration in historical commercial synthetic materials.

■ Advance skills in observation, experimentation and documentation to record, examine and research the material condition of modern material artefacts through object studies and case histories.

■ Introduce practical and theoretical methodologies in conservation to assess and minimise the impact of material ageing and degradation on the form and function of artefacts in museum and archive collections.

■ Enhance critical thinking for methodologies and options to predict, assess and minimise degradation risks in the curation, conservation and collection care of modern material artefacts.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

■ Evaluate key factors and processes that cause ageing and degradation to historical synthetic plastics, fibres, colourants and coatings.

■ Synthesise practical skills to a professional standard in the examination and documentation of deteriorated synthetic material artefacts. 

■ Differentiate classes of historical synthetic materials by typical signs of change caused by ageing and degradation.

■ Relate the material condition of historical synthetic material artefacts to their composition, manufacture, form, function and collection environment.

■ Propose rational preservation methods and options in the curation, conservation and collection care of modern material artefacts. 

■ Monitor and record changes to modern material artefacts through independent and co-operative work.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.