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Nicola Emmerson

Dr Nicola Emmerson


Reader in Conservation

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 29208 74581
John Percival Building, Room 3.13, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


Trained here at Cardiff in Conservation and Archaeology, I am now a corrosion scientist whose research focuses on management of metallic heritage. I work with museums, cultural heritage institutions and an international group of corrosion researchers with the aim of improving preservation of metals, from archaeological small finds to historic wrought iron bridges and ships. My focus on historic wrought iron has led to close collaboration with heritage ironwork practitioners and bodies such as the National Heritage Ironwork Group and the British Artist Blacksmith Association.

I supervise a cohort of PhD students and teach conservation, heritage science research methods and analytical techniques. To support these activities, I developed and manage a suite of analytical laboratories linked to climate simulations, corrosion rate determination, microscopy, FTIR and Raman spectroscopy and sample preparation.

External to the university, I am the Coordinator of the International Council for Museums Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) Metals Working Group and Chair of the Institute for Conservation (Icon) Metals Committee. I act as a reviewer for journals, research funding bodies and conference proceedings.

















Our exploitation of metals for tools, personal decoration, coinage, architecture, industry and innumerable other applications, stretches back into prehistory and leaves a rich legacy of heritage metallic artefacts and structures. My research aims to determine the most effective and practical methods of preserving these for future generations to experience, enjoy and learn from. To do this, I collaborate with conservators, blacksmiths, museums, heritage institutions, archaeology units, corrosion scientists and coating manufacturers. I work both in the field and laboratory where we have a suite of analytical equipment (Raman and FTIR spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, spectrophotometry, X-ray fluorescence) and a bank of climatic chambers in which to model different environments.

Current research themes:

Desiccated storage for archaeological metal small finds

This project with Johanna Thunberg and David Watkinson is producing best practice guidelines for the creation of microclimates in plastic boxes for long term storage of metal objects. Millions of artefacts are stored in this way across the world but there is no evidence for how to produce the most effective microclimate to offer the best protection to the objects and minimise staff or volunteer time in maintaining the desiccation.

Coatings for exterior ferrous metals

Building on a previous project, PhD student Peter Meehan is carrying out real-time assessment of traditional and modern anti-corrosion coatings for historic wrought iron. He is using a range of techniques, including oxygen consumption corrosion rate determination, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and spectrophotometry, to measure performance of the coatings on historic material in outdoor exposure. Ultimately, this will inform selection of coatings for structures such as historic gates, railings, bridges and other architectural elements.

An AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with English Heritage will start in January 2020 to examine the influence of outdoor exposure environment on the corrosion and condition of modern artillery at coastal sites. It will go on to investigate the performance of anti-corrosion coatings for the steels and other components of these artillery pieces to allow English Heritage to refine their treatment protocols.



I teach on four Conservation degree schemes:

BSc Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology

MSc Conservation Practice

MSc Professional Conservation

MSc Care of Collections

I also contribute to teaching across the Archaeology degrees.

My teaching focuses on visual analysis of artefacts, structure and conservation of organic materials, management of heritage collections, scientific approaches to conservation and the theory and practice of scientific research. I manage four laboratories and numerous pieces of analytical equipment, including the Raman and FTIR spectrometers, spectrophotometer, stereo and research microscopes, metallographic sample preparation methods, analytical balances, climatic chambers and oxygen meters.


2016: PhD (Conservation) Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

2011: PGCE: Secondary Science (Chemistry) Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK

2006: MA European Neolithic, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

2005: BSc Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Professional memberships

Member of the International Council of Museums UK

Honorary Ordinary Member of the Royal Archaeological Institute

Member of The Institute of Conservation

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Academic positions

2021 - Present: Reader in Conservation, Cardiff University

2019 - 2021: Senior Lecturer in Conservation, Cardiff University

2014 - 2019: Lecturer in Conservation, Cardiff University

2012 - 2014: Seminar Tutor (Conservation), Cardiff University

2012 - 2014: Tutor (Chemistry for Conservators), International Academic Projects

2012 - 2013: Object Conservator, Cardiff Conservation Services

2011 - 2012: Research Assistant, Cardiff University

2008: Tutor in Conservation, Cardiff University

2006 - 2008: Laboratory Demonstrator (Conservation), Cardiff University

2006 - 2008: Object Conservator, Cardiff Conservation Services

Committees and reviewing


2023 - Present: Coordinator of the International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) Metals Working Group

2020 - 2023: Assistant Coordinator of the ICOM-CC Metals Working Group

2018 - Present: Member of the Scientific Technical Committee of the ICOM-CC Metals Working Group and editor

2013 - Present: Chair of the Institute of Conservation Metals Group Committee

2013 - Present: Member of the Institute of Conservation Group Chairs Committee


Journal Reviewer: Corrosion Science; Innovations in Corrosion and Materials Science; Journal of Heritage Science; Journal of the Institute of Conservation; Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance; Materials and Corrosion; Environmental Science and Pollution Research.


Peter Meehan (PhD Part Time 2018-2025)

A comparison of the long-term outdoor performance of two modern paint coating systems and a traditional lead-based paint applied to historic wrought iron

Johanna Thunberg (PhD Part Time 2018-2024 AHRC SWWDTP)

Evidence-based management of archaeological copper alloys: predicting corrosion, assessing treatment success and specifying storage parameters

Will Smith (PhD 2020-2024 AHRC CDA English Heritage)

Conservation of late 19th and 20th century artillery pieces

Bill Hawkes (PhD Part Time 2020-2027)

Saponin as a conservation-approved treatment in the cleaning of precious metals

Current supervision

William Smith

William Smith

Research student

Bill Hawkes

Bill Hawkes

Research student

Gemma Bond

Gemma Bond

Research student

Xander Cook

Xander Cook

Research student

Peter Meehan

Peter Meehan

Research student

Past projects

Vasiliki Kontogianni (PhD Part Time 2014-2021)

Hydrophobic coatings and organic additives in Hellenistic-Roman mortars: the case study of Crete

Luca Hoare (PhD 2017-2021 Tank Museum Studentship)

Heritage management of tanks (conservation)

Sam Johnson (PhD 2016-2020 AHRC CDA)

Functional fires in historic houses: what price for visitor experience?

Jerrod Seifert (PhD 2016-2020)

Assessing the success of chloride extraction treatments for archaeological cast iron from marine contexts

Ashley Lingle (PhD 2014-2020)

Application of aqueous polymers on earthen substrates


  • Heritage and cultural conservation
  • Cultural heritage management
  • Heritage metals
  • Corrosion and conservation