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Researching & Analysing Historic Buildings - ARC00010M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Dav Smith
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

This module provides a distinctive and accessible introduction to how we research and analyse historic buildings, introducing students to the skills of visual analysis, desk-based assessment, and archival research. It includes developing knowledge of building structures, materials and architectural history. Drawing on examples and case studies from the UK, it lays the foundations for further study and sets historic buildings analysis in the wider context of the heritage and conservation process.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims:

  • To provide students with an understanding of architectural and historical buildings analysis within the context of heritage and conservation practice
  • To introduce students to the specialised skills required for the visual analysis of historic buildings
  • To introduce students to sources of evidence and methods of analysis for historic buildings research

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should:

  • Have a systematic understanding of the context of buildings analysis within heritage and conservation practice
  • Demonstrate a practical understanding of how to Analyse and phase the archaeological sequence of an historic building
  • Demonstrate the ability to independently locate and apply dating evidence from relevant historical and documentary sources to the analysis of historic buildings
  • Demonstrate a practical understanding of how to carry out a basic desk-based assessment of an historic building in the UK in a professional style
  • Be able to communicate their research findings clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences through written and verbal communication

Module content

This module is designed to introduce you to the basics of analysing buildings. We will consider the development of historic buildings analysis and the current frameworks within which specialists operate, particularly in conservation and heritage. We then go on to address the key approaches and methodologies; looking at archival research into buildings history, identifying key sources of secondary and primary sources that underpin both academic and practice-based research. We will familiarise ourselves with current professional guidance on standards and reports, including desk based assessments, and historic buildings reports. The module will introduce you to the basics of analysing buildings, building your understanding of how materials, structures and architectural history can be used to visually analyse a series of case studies through lectures and on site practicals. Many of these issues will come together in our analysis of case studies, many of which are on our doorstep in York and Yorkshire. Throughout the module, you'll build up a good working knowledge of approaches to historic buildings and practice skills of visual analysis, archival research, and report writing.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Historic Buildings Report
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Historic Buildings Report
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Brittain Caitlin, T 2007 How to Read a Building: interpret a building’s character and style (London: Collins)

Historic England 2015 Understanding Historic Buildings: a Guide to Good Recording Practice

Morriss, R K 2000 The Archaeology of Buildings (Stroud, Tempus)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.