Fundamentals of Ceramics and Glass Conservation


The main objective of this curricular unit (CU) is to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for their ability to evaluate and diagnose the state of conservation of glass and ceramic objects: identifying the pathologies that affect them, proposing series of preventive conservation measures, and possibly starting to outline a conservation and restoration proposal for objects composed of these materials. This CU is part of a set of CUs offered by the 1st cycle of studies of the DCR, where the diagnosis and conservation of various materials (stone, paint, metallic materials, photography, graphic documents and textiles) is studied. 

In order to achieve these proposed objectives for the CU, students must learn the characteristics of different types of glass and ceramics, found by examining their chemical, optical, mechanical and thermo-mechanical properties. They must also learn about different methodologies used to characterize, recognize and distinguish the different materials. Students will also learn about the processes and causes of degradation of glass and ceramics. Here again, the methods of examination and analysis have to be briefly addressed, clarifying that they have multiple functions to help characterize the material, to help elucidate the production techniques used, and to help identify the causes and processes of degradation.

In addition to the essential training of practical skills, an integral and fundamental part of academic training is the research component. It is one of the fundamental roles of the Teacher to foster participation in conservation projects, symposia and lectures given by invited teachers and/or experts. Scientific research is a vital part of training at a Faculty of Science and Technology, which makes it necessary to show to students the possibility of pursuing a scientific career dedicated to research.

At the end of this CU, students should be able to:

  • Understand the transdisciplinarity of the acquired knowledge in the Fundamentals of Ceramics and Glass Conservation, and in the area of conservation and restoration in general;
  • Distinguish the various types of glass
  • Distinguish the various types of ceramics and their classification;
  • Know the different techniques of working and decorating ceramics and glass;
  • Know and recognize the different pathologies that can affect ceramic objects and glass objects;
  • Prepare and complete a diagnostic form for ceramic or glass objects of different chronologies (materials from different chronological periods present different styles and methods of production, thus representing new challenges for the student);
  • Prepare a proposal for intervention and/or preventive conservation based on their diagnosis.


The proposed programme content is not all that is entailed in the students’ training, the development of other skills, so-called soft skills, is also part of the training process, such as:

- Ability to work as a team, but also to develop personal work and make decisions individually;

- Ability to structure their work, organizing and managing time to meet deadlines;

- Ability to structure written and oral communications;

- Ability to participate in presentations as a presenter and as part of an active audience.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Inês Alexandra Ramalho Coutinho


Weekly - 5

Total - 84

Teaching language



not aplicable


Clark, D. E., Pantano, C. G., & Hench, L. L. (1979). Corrosion of Glass. New York: Books for Industry.

Koob, S. Conservation and care of glass objects. London: Archetype P, 2006. ISBN: 978-1904982081

Navarro, J., “El Vidrio”. Madrid: CSIC, 2003. ISBN: 9788400081584.

Vilarigues, M. (2008).Estudo do efeito da adição de iões metálicos na corrosão de vidros potássicos.PhD thesis UNL 

Brown, S.; Strobl, S., “A Fragile inheritance: The care of stained glass and historic glazing: a handbook for custodians”. Northampton: Church House Publishing, 2002. ISBN: 0715176005.

Buys, S.; Oakley, V. “Conservation and Restoration of Ceramics”. Oxon: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1996. ISBN: 978-0750632195

Oakley, V.L.; Jain, K.K. “Essentials in the Care and Conservation of Historical Ceramic Objects”. London: Archetype P. 2002. ISBN: 978-1873132739

Teaching method

The methodology I propose aims to lead students to integrate and relate the knowledge acquired in the other disciplines of the Degree in Conservation – Restoration. Equally, the concepts and knowledge we propose to introduce in this CU will be deepened in others, namely those CUs that are part of Masters in Conservation and Restoration and Conservation Sciences. In this way, students develop critical thinking and, moreover, exercise the transdisciplinarity that is evident in the 1st and 2nd cycles of this area of study.

Content of the theoretical classes will be presented to transmit knowledge regarding glass and ceramics, from a starting point of the concept of the diagnosis of these materials. This will lead on to discussions about their chemical compositions and their degradation mechanisms. All theoretical classes will be accompanied by an article, book chapter or compulsory text to be read prior to the class, the content of which will be discussed amongst students and the teacher at the beginning of each lesson, thus promoting more direct interaction with students and among them. The reading of the texts aims to stimulate students to seek more information independently about the topics covered in the classes; deepening their own understanding and encouraging a much more motivated and interested attitude which often feeds back into later classes. Some articles/texts published years back will be selected due to the fact that these are still considered reference works, as is the case of Zachariasen’s article from 1932, while other more recent bibliographic contributions will also be studied to cover more recent lines of research and focus on the updates in the area which they refer to. In the plan proposed below, I present at least one example of a bibliographical contribution per theoretical class.

Practical lectures will be a space for experimentation, demonstration, and observation, for the benefit of discussion about concrete situation and learning based on case studies, thus promoting realistic debate among students. Nonetheless, I still intend to create a balance between practical and theoretical components, so that theory will provide the necessary knowledge to underpin practical development. Experiments will be carried out in the classes, and the glass and ceramic objects will be studied, with specific lesson plans chosen to raise doubts and questions. These exercises will pose problems that will make students reflect and then find solutions by acquiring skills of working collaboratively in groups, as well as solving problems individually.

Study visits are part of both the theoretical component and the practical component of the classes, so I chose to categorise them as a theoretical-practical activity. A compulsory study visit is proposed, and inserted in the calendar of this CU. We can visit the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art) or the Caloust Gulbenkian Museum (including both the exhibition spaces and storage rooms), depending on the availability of each institution. These institutions are particularly well suited because their collections include a great amount of glass and ceramic materials, from a wide span of chronological periods, designed for different original functions, and in varying states of conservation. Exposure to these materials allows students to "train the eye" with guidance from the Professor and to be attentive to the various conservation conditions in which glass and the ceramic materials can be found. This class also serves the purpose to discuss each museum’s methods and exhibition choices, which leads to consideration of how these contexts can influence the integrity and conservation status of the objects.

With the purpose of complementing and deepening students’ knowledge about certain topics addressed in class, extra study visits will be proposed and organized outside the CU calendar and will be optional for students. One of the places proposed for an extra study visit is the Museu do Azulejo (Tile Museum) in Lisbon.

Finally, the organization of seminars would be the third pillar of the pedagogical method I propose here. The aim with seminars is to invite subject specialists to share their experience and knowledge with the students. Two seminars are scheduled in the CU calendar, one dedicated to stained glass (given by the DCR Professor of Stained Glass Conservation and Restoration Diagnostics) and another dedicated to the thermo-mechanical properties of glass and ceramics (given by a Professor from the Department of Materials’ Science, FCT NOVA). Two more seminars outside the CU calendar time will be offered, for example, covering the topic of diagnosis and problems of conservation in tiles (Extra Seminar 1) and pathologies and conservation problems in archaeological ceramics (Extra Seminar 2). In order to teach the extra seminars, I can count on the presence of several conservators and archaeologists who belong to institutions such as the Lisbon Archaeological Centre (CAL) or municipal councils, of which there are several who have partnership agreements with me under the project submitted to the 2017 edition of the Projects of Scientific Research and Technological Development (IC & DT) in all Scientific Domains, under the responsibility of the Foundation for Science and Technology.

In conclusion, the teaching methodology I propose here with the three pillars described above aims at establishing a balance between the theoretical and practical components, in which the importance of transdisciplinarity and the relationship between knowledge acquired in different CU must always be put into practice.

Evaluation method

The evaluation method will similarly include a theoretical component, a practical component and a Theoretical-practical type component. 

This course has frequency, that is, set of conditions to be satisfied by the student to have access to the exam; The student will have access to the Examination as long as it does not miss more than 2/3 of the practical classes.

The theoretical componentintends to evaluate the knowledge acquired by students on the composition and degradation mechanisms of glass and ceramic materials. The evaluation method for this component take the form of two tests during the semester or, alternatively, of an exam at the end of the class period. It is mandatory to have positive mark on the theoritical component.

The practical component of evaluation will take into account the students’ performance in the practical classes, including the quality of their diagnostic report, their demonstrated ability to correctly identify all the pathologies of the objects studied in class and other aspects of their performance. It is mandatory to have positive mark on the practical component.

Finally, the Theoretical-practical component intends to evaluate the students’ active participation in classes through their answers to questions, the quality of their comments on various subjects of discussion and their preparation with the texts before each class and then the quality of their seminar-style discussion on these texts. The quality of their oral presentation is also a factor in this component.

There are 3 components of continuous evaluation: 2 tests of theoretical evaluation (T), one of practical evaluation (P, report on the practical work) and 2 components of Theoretical-practical evaluation (oral presentation and discution of the written report and participation in class in discussions of texts of madatory reading)To have approval to the curricular unit is necessary to have a minimum of 9.5 values in both components (theoretical and practical).

Each component is evaluated on a scale of 0 to 20.  

The final grade of the curricular unit is obtained by the average of the three components with the following weightings:

  • Theoretical component weighting at 50% (each of the two tests weighted at 25%).
  • Practical component weighted at 25% (the report grade will value 25%).
  • Theoretical-practical type component weighted at 25% (comprised of 15% for their oral presentation and discussion and 10% for their participation in class).

Final Grade = (0.5*T) + (0.25*P) + (0.25*TP)

T= average of 2 theoretical tests or Exam grade.

TP= Oral presentation and discussion of the report weights 15%  and general participation in class and discussion of texts of mandatory reading weights 10%.

Factors such as ability to solve problems, attendance and punctuality will also be evaluated continuously throughout the semester and in all components.

Subject matter

The proposed programme to be taught per class in the FCGC CU will be presented. The theoretical and practical components will be presented together to demonstrate their symbiosis.

For each theoretical class detailed below, a bibliography will be suggested and one of these references will be compulsory reading for discussion in class. When books are referenced as compulsory reading, it means that only one or two chapters of the book will be required. This bibliography will be changed and updated whenever possible and applicable.

Table 1 presents a schematic summary of theoretical and practical classes following the brief descriptions of their content above. 

Table 1:  Schematic summary of the theoretical lectures and practical classes with the contents to be addressed by class.






Class 1

Introducing contents and objectives, Introduction to diagnosis, introduction to Glass (part 1)

See several types of glasses with different chemical compositions, colours, etc.; make glass beads on the torch

Class 2

Introduction to Glass (part 2)

Synthesis of glasses in laboratory

Class 3

Glass degradation mechanisms

Practical lesson on analytical techniques 

Class 4

Introduction to Stained glass and its diagnosis

Stained glass diagnosis


Class 5

Introduction to Ceramics

Study of ceramic bodies part 1

Class 6

Ceramics degradation mechanisms

Study of ceramic bodies part 2; Synthesis of glazes in laboratory

                                       Glass and Ceramics

Class 7

Test 1

Watch glass blowing

Class 8

Ternary Phase Diagrams and Thermomechanical Properties of Glass and Ceramic Materials

Practical exercise on ternary phase diagrams

Class 9

Study visit

Practical exercise on ternary phase diagrams

Class 10

Preventive Conservation, Handling, Packaging and Transportation

Packaging materials and boxes

Class 11

Practical Classes on Ceramics and Glass Diagnosis

Class 12

Practical Classes on Ceramics and Glass Diagnosis

Class 13

Practical Classes on Ceramics and Glass Diagnosis

Class 14

Test 2

Practical Classes on Ceramics and Glass Diagnosis

Class 15

Delivery of diagnostic reports, oral presentation, and discussion of reports


Programs where the course is taught: