Accessibility statement

Sustaining the Historic Environment: Issues in Conservation


Module leader: Dr Louise Cooke


Sustaining the Historic Environment will introduce students to current scenarios for climate change, and the significant policy and political issues around planning for sustainability in a national and international context. Impacts on the historic environment include both the direct effects of changing environmental conditions attributed to global warming, and also the indirect effects of anthropogenic change to accommodate perceived risks and mitigation action, such as management of the carbon economy. These raise conflicting issues for the protection of the historic aspects of the environment, for heritage management and for the concept of sustainable development in particular contexts.
We will look at environmental and social action to manage climate change impacts sustainably, and consequences - intended and unintended -  both for heritage assets and the communities who value them. Case studies provide material for exploring the issues raised for conservation of landscapes, archaeological sites and historic buildings. Challenges include a rapidly-changing policy position, increase in scientific understanding and scenario-building, perceptions of risk and benefit, and the influencing of social and individual behaviours. Has archaeology as a discipline anything to offer to the sustainability agenda, and how could it make a contribution more effectively to sustainability and the way people think about these issues.


This module aims:
  • To introduce the key debates and issues around planning for climate change, and its direct and indirect impacts on the historic environment
  • To raise awareness of public policy and practice for sustainability in relation to conservation of heritage assets and their contexts
  • To engage critically with contested areas of thinking and environmental action, in relation to the long-term protection of the historic environment, and public engagement with its conservation.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • demonstrate that they are familiar with the literature and information sources for the direct and indirect effects of climate change for the historic environment and sustainability, including contested areas of policy and practice
  • exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical, methodological and ethical issues related to conservation of heritage assets and their contexts, in relation to climate change impacts and concepts of sustainability
  • show familiarity with a range of case studies 
  • demonstrate in depth knowledge of a topic of their choosing
  • pick out the key issues in their chosen topic 
  • prepare a worksheet which sets out key reading and issues for presentation, debate and discussion, and support the group in the preparation of the seminar
  • chair a seminar, engage interest in the topic, stimulate debate and structure discussion 
  • have a critical awareness of the process of collective debate on a specific topic 
  • be able to judge the general 'success' of the seminar, and to be able to reflect on this, through a written summary of a seminar
  • present PowerPoint presentations on other subjects within the general theme and contribute informed ideas and information to the other seminars


In this module you will develop key skills in presentation and chairing which should be of immense value in your future careers:
  • Self management: in this module you need to develop the ability to take initiative and you will need the will to succeed! There will be a lot of self management required whilst you plan your topic through the spring term- you should be spending about 3-4 days a week on this module and balancing this with finalising your dissertation (and any other commitments)
  • Communication: communication skills are vital and they will be assessed- through the previous 2 years you will should have practised and developed these skills in order to present clear and succinct PowerPoints. Your writing skills will be tested further in your self assessment document. Most importantly, you will have the chance to chair a seminar and you will need to be able to judge when to listen to your team mates, and how to encourage and stimulate debate, particularly from quieter members of the group
  • Team working: it is essential you can bring the team together to tackle your topic in depth and to create a stimulating and enlightening debate. It may be a wise move to set up your own study groups.
  • Problem solving: you will be faced with a lot of reading and it is essential that you develop the skills for retrieving information from relevant sources as well as critical evaluation
  • Creativity and innovation: this module enables you to be creative in your ideas of what topic to develop and how you plan to run the seminar
  • World of work awareness: this module will set you up for similar situations in the world of work where you might need to chair a meeting and will have to keep the team to the point and to time- you should understand the pressures of such meetings and think about ways of coping with them
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: many of you will be considering the international dimensions of your chosen subject, and in many cases you might want to think about the diversity of issues from other cultures and countries, as well as ethical issues related to your research
  • Application of IT: you will be tested on your effective use of PowerPoint as well as word processsing skills. You will also be expected to use the internet effectively with your research
Kings Arms flooded by Ouse; climate change, Gill Chitty