Book Review – Science for Conservators Volume 1 – An Introduction to Materials

Book Review – Science for Conservators Volume 1 – An Introduction to Materials

(Front Cover)

Okay, not strictly an archaeology book, but who said it had to be? As some of know I am currently studying for my MA in Preventive Conservation and this book has been an invaluable resource. Having come from an archaeology background I have an reasonable grasp of science, but without putting it into practice you do loose a few details and this book, and other two books in the series have been a great reference tool.

(back cover)

So the book was first published back in 1983, but as the first volume deals with basic scientific and chemistry principles, it is still pretty up-to-date. This particular edition is from 1992.


The book is broken into five chapters:

  1. What Is Science – This chapter looks at what science is and its value, material identification, levels of identity, the use of instruments and scientific language (This section is a little dated due to technological advances), scientific observations and theories, and scientific measurement and and accuracy in practice. The overall purpose of this chapter is to give a brief account of the scientific method, how observations are made and theories developed and how to make accurate measurements. In short introduces us to the structured way of thinking that science uses.
  2. Beginning Chemistry – This chapter covers chemical names, elements and compounds, atoms and molecules, states of matter (solids, liquids and gases) mixtures and purity, physical and chemical changes, and how chemical reactions happen. In short, this a very brief introduction to Atomic Theory, and how it can be used to interpret common place phenomena.
  3. Molecules And Chemical Equations – This chapter covers visualising atoms, symbolic representation of molecules, building chemical equations, building chemical equations, chemical equations in use, making chemistry quantitative. In short this a follow on from Atomic Theory from the last chapter, and how this is applied to chemistry in practice. –
  4. Atomic Structure And Chemical Bonding – This chapter focuses on structure of atoms, bonding mechanisms and the physical properties of bonding.
  5. Relating Chemical Names to Structures – This chapter focuses on inorganic and organic compounds

Style, Layout and Language –

The style, layout and language is very much in the style of an undergraduate textbook mixed with a work book, with questions at the end of each section to test understanding and knowledge. With the advantages and disadvantages that brings.

It is divided clearly into five chapters and at 120 pages long it is not the largest textbook, which makes it a good text book, easily condensed to the essential points. This also means it is written like an undergraduate textbook. With lots of technical and specialists words which the reader are assumed to now, and with not glossary. In the age of Google this is not as inconvenient as when the book was written, but a technical glossary would be useful or further explanation in the text.


So would I recommend this book? Yes… I would recommend the book to anyone involved in conservation, collection care or even archaeology (or anyone with a passing interest) who want a good reference on basic chemistry, or who need refresh themselves.

I hope you have enjoyed this review, please note this was not sponsored by the author, publisher or distributor.


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