The University of York has announced a new partnership with one of the UK’s principal museums of historic buildings, The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum.
The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum delivers two well-established MSc programmes building conservation and historic building techniques and the new agreement means that they will now lead to degrees awarded by the University of York. Located in the heart of the South Downs National Park, the award-winning Weald & Downland Open Air Museum has 50 historic building exhibits and is designated by the Government for the outstanding importance of its collections. Exhibits include a medieval farmstead; a working watermill producing wholemeal stoneground flour; exhibitions focusing on traditional building techniques and agriculture; historic gardens, farm livestock and a working Tudor kitchen.
This new partnership marks the beginning of a new phase in the University’s commitment to conservation teaching and research
Dr John Schofield Building on collaborations between the Department of Archaeology at York and the Museum, the new partnership coincides with the 40th anniversary of University of York’s Masters programme in Conservation Studies, the longest-established course of its kind in the UK and internationally.
The Museum’s two programmes will continue to be taught in-house, delivery being in six long weekend blocks over two academic years – a convenient mode of delivery for mid-career professionals who constitute the majority of students. The museum is now accepting applications for the next programmes starting this autumn.
The Museum and the Department of Archaeology at York share common building conservation ethics and philosophy. Gill Chitty, the Department ‘s new Director of Conservation Studies, says: “The partnership also brings together the University’s multi-disciplinary research environment, international perspective and PhD in Conservation Studies with the Museum’s unique conservation ethos and approach. The Museum’s programmes are supported by an exceptional community of specialist practitioners and its unrivalled collection of buildings as a learning environment.”
The MSc programmes deal with themes arising from the Museum’s collection of historic buildings, and they make use of the exhibits as a learning resource, together with other case studies and site visits. Former students have commented on the valuable learning process, with lectures from external subject specialists, and opportunities for discussion with knowledgeable fellow students. Students carry out research into buildings and topics of their choice. Discussion of history, science and ethics is woven through the modules.
Museum Director, Richard Pailthorpe, says: “The Museum is justly proud of our MSc programmes and is delighted with this new academic collaboration.”
Dr John Schofield, who takes over as Head of Department of Archaeology at York in October, explains: “This new partnership marks the beginning of a new phase in the University’s commitment to conservation teaching and research. As well as re-establishing our current MA programme in Conservation Studies, the partnership with Weald & Downland takes us in a significant new direction, with practical skills and conservation principles and philosophies at its core.”
Richard Harris, Course Leader for the unique MSc in Timber Building Conservation has been involved with Museum since 1975 when he was appointed Research Director and was subsequently Director until his recent retirement from that post. He is now undertaking research and lectures alongside his MSc commitments.
Eddie Booth, currently Secretary of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, follows Jim Strike as the Course Leader of the MSc Building Conservation. Eddie is Director of the Conservation Studio in Petersfield.