School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

Heritage Materials Science

Heritage Materials Science is about the identification and understanding of the materials that make up objects which are part of our cultural heritage. We study the way they deteriorate and the means to preserve them by applying our knowledge of materials science and the latest chemical and physical technologies to heritage materials.

The power of modern scientific methods in the preservation and authentication of works of art, documents and antiquities for forensic science examination is increasingly being recognised. Graduates of this programme will be well qualified to be at the head of this global trend in art and museum conservation, archaeology and forensic evidence related to heritage materials.

For all enquiries, please contact the Programme Director, Associate Professor Gerald Smith


Our Programme

Our programme is the only science-based heritage materials qualification in the Southern Hemisphere.

The programme welcomes science students wishing to develop and apply analytical and biological methods in novel ways. Those with an interest in the development and history of cultures, the arts and peoples also find this programme interesting.

Previous students have had undergraduate qualifications in Chemistry, Māori and Pacific Studies, Art History and Archaeology, and have included mature students with experience in the heritage profession.


Wellington - an Ideal Location

Victoria University is located in Wellington, the Science Capital and centre of culture in New Zealand.

The university has strong links to the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongawera, the Historic Places Trust and the National Library of New Zealand, which are all within walking distance of campus. These institutions provide context as well as placements for practical work experience alongside professional conservators.


On Campus

The School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University is home to the heritage materials science programme. Students benefit from the advanced instrumentation and scientific expertise of staff and the School’s close association with the MacDiarmid Institute of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. Together, they house an impressive array of advanced equipment for materials science.

On campus is the Adam Art Gallery, the first public art gallery in a New Zealand university. The Adam gallery also manages the extensive Victoria University art collection.

Te Kawa a Māui (the School of Maori Studies), Va'aomanū Pasifika and the School of School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies (including Museum and Heritage Studies) provide electives for the heritage materials science course.


Overseas Links

For those students interested in training as a museum or art conservator, a partnership has been established with Melbourne University’s Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation with opportunities for New Zealand–based research.