PhD Studentship "Safeguarding museum objects from shock and vibration during transit"

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the British Museum
University of Southampton
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Application deadline: 
Sunday, 16 June, 2019

The University of Southampton and The British Museum are offering an exciting research opportunity in form of the PhD Studentship “Safeguarding museum objects from shock and vibration during transit”.

Artefacts are frequently moved within and between museums and are consequently exposed to vibration and shock during transit. Little research has been conducted into the dynamic properties of 3D objects and their potential for damage when mechanically stimulated. This project aims to quantify the effects of vibration and shock on museum objects, provide a scientifically informed framework by which objects are judged fit to travel, and investigate the applicability of advanced technologies for vibration and shock isolation.

Museum objects at the British Museum span many ages and cultures. They take varied geometrical forms, comprise a plethora of materials and feature many fabrication processes. In most cases, damage is already present in the form of delamination or cracks that can grow when stimulated by vibration and shock. The project will begin by surveying and categorising typical artefacts based on their likely vibration response. Vibration tests will be performed on sacrificial objects or material samples representative of objects deemed particularly vulnerable, initially to characterise their behaviour and subsequently to induce failure. State-of-the-art imaging and sensing technologies will be used to monitor damage growth. Knowledge of typical stimuli in transit, the resulting response of artefacts, and their potential for damage, will be combined to develop an empirical tool for collections care professionals. In a second research strand, bespoke isolation technologies for packing highly fragile objects will be explored.

You will join the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the University, an internationally renowned and vibrant research community which has been advancing the understanding of noise and vibration and its mitigation for over 50 years. You will also be embedded in the British Museum’s Collection Care Department, spending extended periods of time under the co-supervision of an experienced conservator. You will have exclusive access to collections facilitated by expert staff and gain detailed insights into museum processes.

You will have a first or upper second class integrated Masters’ degree in a mechanically based engineering subject, or in physical sciences. Alternatively, you may have a similar Bachelors’ degree, together with either a standalone Masters’ degree in any other subject or equivalent work experience. You will have a proven track record in planning and conducting detailed experiments. Prior knowledge of mechanical vibrations is advantageous, although taught modules will be available for those with some or no previous background. A fascination for history and museums is essential.

To find out more about this Collaborative Doctoral Partnership and to apply, please see

Application deadline: 16 June 2019.

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