Museum archaeologists, conservation scientists, archivists and university researchers gathered at a one-day workshop at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory to discuss preservation of art and artefacts as well as immovable objects such as buildings and ships.
From how STFC is currently using its world leading light source facilities to help preserve the historic timbers of the Mary Rose, to why a bronze-age wooden shovel has survived so perfectly for over 4000 years in unfavourable soil conditions - delegates took part in discussions with STFC scientists involved to discover how cutting edge techniques can take heritage research into new and productive directions.
Delegates were also briefed on how to gain access to STFCâ€™s facilities and to the wealth of advice available from deciding on an invesstigative technique or instrument, to help with defining an experiment and writing up a proposal for access to STFC's facilities, to collecting, analysing and interpreting data.
World class research facilities at STFC include the Synchrotron Radiation Source, the Medium Energy Ion Scattering Facility (MEIS) and the SuperSTEM microscopes at the Daresbury Laboratory near Warrington, and the Central Laser Facility, the ISIS neutron source and the Diamond Light Source based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
Research can be carried out on samples of all sizes, very often employing techniques that are non-invasive and require no sample preparation.
Dr Andrew Smith at STFC said: "STFC's scientific facilities are playing an ever increasing role in the emerging field of heritage science. Our scientists can help provide the answers to fundamental questions, whether we are performing texture analysis on a prehistoric copper axe, performing internal visualisation of a metal statue, or trying to find out how to stop a piece of parchment from degrading. We are constantly learning more and more about how science can help us to better understand historic objects and the people who made them, whilst ensuring that future generations can enjoy these artefacts and the knowledge gained about them. On the other side of the coin, researchers need to provide us with their unanswered questions and tell us what they need to know we can then apply our expertise, or providde the research facilities, to come up with answers."
Professor May Cassar, Director of The Science and Heritage Programme, said: "The purpose of this workshop was to learn what end-users want from large scale science facilities and what providers are able to do. We are making significant progress into encouraging a two way flow of information and learning, thus strengthening a fragmented heritage science base into an exciting and growing research community."