Conservation Advising FAQ’s
Students interested in cultural heritage conservation at ECU are typically enrolled in a masters program through the Department of History or Department of Anthropology. We often have students from other disciplines as well interested in doing research related to preservation.
To determine how conservation can fit into your curriculum, you are strongly encouraged to contact your program graduate studies director:
Department of History: Dr. Carl Swanson
Department of Anthropology: Dr. Christine Avenarius
They will be able to best advise you on how the conservation courses fit into your overall academic program and on thesis related questions!!!!
If you are interested in having a part of your thesis on conservation, you are encouraged to contact Susanne Grieve at GrieveS@ecu.edu to begin discussing ideas!
1) What do professors look for when reviewing prospectuses?
Professors evaluate the thesis proposal as a whole until. In the beginning you should clearly demonstrate your research question. Where is the argument? What are you trying to hypothesize? Your thesis should somehow contribute to the body of research in your profession. Above all, make sure you have a clear research question identified! You also need to be able to demonstrate how your project fits into the bigger picture.
ECU History Website: “A thesis is an examination of a well-defined historical subject that relies chiefly on primary sources, published or unpublished, to form an argument. It should possess some degree of original thought on the topic, or in its approach to that topic. The thesis should not be a compilation of detail or a simple narrative. Instead, it should pose an argument. It should be expository rather than descriptive.”
Refer to your Departmental Graduate Student Handbook for details on how to craft a prospectus. Here are some additional resources:
ECU Anthropology Graduate Student Guidelines (Please note Anthropology graduate students are expected to defend their thesis prospectus at the end of the first spring semester (May of your first academic year).
2) What components should my thesis proposal have?
- Title Page: List your title (which should indicate what your thesis is intending to cover), your name, date submitted, and committee.
- Table of Contents
- Research Proposal: 1-2 paragraphs maximum, this is where you highlight your thesis question and your argument
- Introduction: What are you researching? Why is it important? How will it contribute to the field?
- Historical Background
- Research Proposal
- Literature Review and Reference Literature: What resources are you going to use to do this research? What will be your primary sources?
- Works Cited: List the references you have cited in your proposal.
- Appendix: Chapter Outlines, Timeline to Completion,
Be sure to use headings to organize your proposal and don’t forget to include images or tables to demonstrate your points.
3) What is the purpose of the thesis?
The thesis is meant to demonstrate that you have acquired the skills of the profession and that you can conduct an independent research project. It is also a good demonstration of your writing and research ability.
4) Is a thesis necessary?
The Department of Anthropology offers a non-thesis option for students. If you are remotely considering doing a PhD program, I highly suggest you complete a thesis. Even if you are not interested in education past a master’s degree, employers are looking for people who have good writing skills and your thesis is one way of demonstrating that ability. With that said, we are in a new era of employment and universities and employers may judge your professional work based on the amount of peer reviewed literature you have contributed to the field (ie: journal articles, publications, etc.). If you are planning to produce publishable work during your academic training then a thesis may not always be necessary. In conservation, having either publications or a thesis (or both!) will benefit you greatly if you plan on working at a museum or university.
5) Does my thesis have to include archaeology or history related topics?
If you are getting your degree in the Department of History or Department of Anthropology for public history, maritime studies, or archaeology, I highly suggest having some component of your thesis relate to your main field of study. There are many theoretical considerations in each of these fields that apply to those topics.
6) Like what?
- Site formation processes
- Ethics of Recovery
- In Situ Preservation
Public History Theory
- Interpretation and Display
- Value Systems
7) How long should my thesis be?
Refer to your Departmental Graduate Student Handbook, but generally the thesis should be between 80-120 pages.
8) Is a doctorate possible/necessary in conservation?
While a master’s degree is considered to be terminal degree in the field, there are a few universities that offer conservation specific doctoral programs. These often require you to have several years of experience for a research based degree or that you attend their masters program before entering the doctorate. A few examples of programs are the University of Melbourne and University College London. Check with the requirements of the programs to see if you would qualify.
9) Can I expect to leave the ECU program as a conservator?
The goal of our courses is not to produce conservators, but to expose students to the complexities of archaeological conservation through theory and practical experience. We will work on building up your portfolio during your time at ECU and meeting your interests and goals in conservation. There are several dedicated masters programs in conservation that will ensure you have employability once you graduate. These programs often require 400 hours of prior lab experience and Organic Chemistry training. For a list of universities that are dedicated conservation programs, please see the AIC website on Conservation Training Programs.
10) Do I have to focus on archaeological materials?
No, absolutely not! We work with a variety of institutions, museums, private citizens and organizations that have diverse collections of historical objects, family heirlooms, contemporary artworks decorative art, and folk art as well as archaeological materials. The laboratory was founded to work with maritime archaeological materials and while our strength is in treating these types of objects, we apply conservation methods to a variety of material types.
11) What courses can I take at ECU that relate to conservation?
There are four main courses offered in the Department of History that are cross listed with Anthropology:
- HIST6840 Introduction to Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation
- HIST6845 Advanced Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation
- HIST6855 Principles of Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation
- HIST6860 Archaeological Museum Conservation Methods Internship
We also offer material culture courses that are theory based:
- HIST3993 Approaches to Historical Objects
- HIST6825 American Maritime Material Culture
Please see the ECU online catalog for more information on the course offerings.
12) How many hours are required for the internship?
3 credit hours=140 hours on site
6 credit hours=280 hours on site
9 credit hours=420 hours on site
13) What official paperwork do I need to be aware of for completing my thesis?
After your prospectus is completed and approved by your committee, you will need to complete an approval form provided in the Department of History Graduate Student Manual. Also be sure to check the dates for when you need to have your thesis components submitted and defended at the ECU Thesis and Dissertation website.