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.

Making Modern Artefacts: Historical Materials and Methods HISTART5133

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course introduces the scientific properties and manufacturing methods for historical synthetic materials in museum and archive artefact collections of decorative arts, fashion, social history and design.


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, 1,500 words (30%)

Practical assessment written report, 1,500 words (30%)

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Introduce the core material science of key synthetic plastics, fibres, colourants and coatings used since the 1850s for a range of commercial every-day and designed objects now in museum and archive collections.

■ Develop theoretical knowledge of characteristic chemical and physical properties and key industrial synthesis processes for historically significant modern materials to enable their identification and explain their behaviour in artefacts.

■ Develop practical skills to research modern and historical scientific and technological information in written sources about modern materials and their industrial synthesis.

■ Develop practical skills in the visual examination, basic technical analysis and documentation of materials through object studies. 

■ Introduce advanced scientific analytical research methods for modern materials using laboratory demonstrations and historical artefact case studies.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Explain the material science of key historical synthetic plastics, fibres, colourants and coatings that characterises their composition and commercial manufacture.

■ Recognise significant historical commercial synthetic materials by visual appearance and basic technical analysis.

■ Interpret information about industrial manufacturing materials and methods for key synthetic materials from different historical and modern scientific and technical information sources.

■ Apply practical skills in competent technical examination and documentation of synthetic materials. 

■ Use appropriate scientific and technical terminology relevant to historical synthetic materials in written and oral dissemination.

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.