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

School of Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Sunday 16 June 2019
Reference:  1125919DA

We are looking for a suitably qualified PhD student to research the impact of vibration on museum objects. This is an interdisciplinary and prestigious Collaborative Doctoral Studentship between The British Museum and the University of Southampton, and will involve periods of study at both institutions under their joint supervision.

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.#

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Tim Waters, Dynamics Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 4979.or Verena Kotonski, Conservation Section, British Museum, Email:

Funding and Eligibility

This 3 year (full time) or 6 year (part time) studentship is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and covers UK tuition fees for UK/EU students.  UK students will additionally receive an annual tax-free stipend at an enhanced rate, which for 2019/20 is £15,559 (full time).A significant budget is available for project costs such as travel, and you will have access to personal development funding to extend your period of study for up to 6 months, for example to undertake placements or extensive field work. 

The funding available is competitive and will only be awarded to an outstanding applicant. As part of the selection process, the strength of the whole application is taken into account, including academic qualifications, personal statement, CV and references.

For further guidance on funding, please contact

How to Apply

Click here to apply and select the programme - PhD in Engineering and the Environment. Please enter the title of the PhD Studentship in the application form.

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

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