Program Information

The PhD program in the Conservation of Material Culture (CMC) is offered as a degree option by the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials Interdepartmental Degree Program (IDP) at UCLA, housed under the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology ORU (Organized Research Unit) and the Division of Social Sciences. The CMC Ph.D. is a research-focused degree, rich in scientific content, scholarly approach and research methodology and is distinct from the practice-focused CAEM M.A. (terminal) degree offered by the Conservation IDP for the training of professional conservators on the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials (CAEM).

Participating members in the new CMC Ph.D. degree course include IDP faculty and academic staff who are committed to teach all the core courses and faculty from various divisions and schools across UCLA with expertise in different classes of materials such as archaeological, cultural and environmental materials (both organic and inorganic); their structure, properties, deterioration and conservation; materials characterization techniques; documentation and data processing, mining and visualization; environmental studies; museum and library science; geology/geoscience; archaeology/anthropology; art history; public policy; ethnography and indigenous studies. 

Areas of Research

The PhD program focuses on original research, global exchange, strong leadership, public engagement and a strong understanding of the main research subject. The program’s framework of knowledge and skills development is structured into one major area of study – the Conservation of Materials Culture – enhanced by cross-disciplinary research.  

It is structured around multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research areas organized along four core training and research categories: “materials”; “technology”, “environment” and “traditional ecological knowledge” (TEK).  These categories work synergistically towards advancing the main research subject and offer opportunities for developing in depth knowledge in the Conservation of Materials Culture in a particular cross-disciplinary field.

Students in the CMC PhD program can focus on the following research areas:

Additional ad hoc research topics in emerging areas of research related to conservation that will enrich the innovative and cross-disciplinary curriculum proposed may also be considered.

The program fills a new niche in the cultural heritage sector, targeting students from different backgrounds for leading positions in academia, museums, research facilities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies and the private sector. It trains researchers internationally in new knowledge of best practices addressing a) the humanistic, social and scientific needs of cultural property, indigenous and archaeological materials; b) engaging with practitioners in novel ways to improve understanding of cultural heritage materials’ change and conservation management and c) engaging the public with new ways of presenting and interpreting cultural property.

Relationship Between the Master's and Doctorate Programs

The CMC Ph.D. program, is a research-focused degree, rich in scientific content, scholarly approach and research methodology. Students apply directly to the CMC Ph.D. Degree Program. The CMC M.S. is not intended to be a stand-alone, terminal degree but students entering the Ph.D./M.S. program of study may choose to receive the M.S. degree while in progress to the Ph.D. degree. The research-focused CMC M.S./Ph.D. Program should not be confused with the practice-focused CAEM M.A. Degree also offered by the Conservation IDP that trains professional conservators.

The two degrees share a scholarly approach to the discipline and strong commitment to the advancement of the conservation profession. In terms of curriculum, they will share 24 Units of core coursework providing fundamental knowledge in the structure, properties deterioration and conservation of material culture, as well as, documentation methods and ethics and sets a common basis of understanding of the field and its developments for entering students from various backgrounds. The CAEM M.A. degree however, requires an additional 32 Units of conservation laboratory courses, a short practice application-oriented or research-based M.A. paper and an eleventh month internship (most commonly in a conservation department of a museum) enabling students to develop integrative and intense practice experiences and informed treatment skills, preparing them for professional conservation careers. The research design course, electives (subset cluster area courses), mentored-research experience and doctoral dissertation required in the CMC Ph.D. option on the other hand, builds research methodology skills, critical thinking, knowledge-generating research, entrepreneurial and leadership competencies.

Because research and practice-focused are typically different, they can coexist in one academic unit, the Conservation IDP, providing distinctive competencies and preparing students for different careers in the cultural heritage sector and beyond.