Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful

We are happy to announce that registration is now open for the Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar taking place on February 11th 2019. The seminar is  jointly organised by E-RIHS, the National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF), and ICON-Heritage Science Group will take place at the UCL Here East Stratford Campus, London E20 3BS. 

All those engaged in Heritage Science collect a wide range of different types of data on cultural heritage, about objects, buildings and landscapes and the people who value and use them, with a particular focus on understanding change over time and to inform future management. This data is increasingly ‘born digital’ and is being used to support ‘big data’ projects for the benefit of the historic environment. This seminar will explore how the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) can be applied to heritage data, and debate the infrastructure required to maximise the public value and impact of the data created as part of heritage science practice. It will seek answers to four questions:

  • What is heritage science data?
  • How do we go about collecting, managing and storing the data we collect so that can be used by others, both now and in the future?
  • How and why should we disseminate heritage science data?
  • What is the role of heritage science data in making the economic case for cultural heritage?

The day will include a range of invited speakers, panel discussion, poster session and a tour of the new Heritage Imaging Lab. Confirmed invited speakers include:

  • Tim Evans, York University Archaeology Data Service
  • Paul Bryan, Historic England
  • Robert Symmons, Fishbourne Roman Palace
  • Maja Maricevic, British Library
  • Sara Gould, British Library
  • Luigi Galimberti, Tate

Pleas register here. The seminar is free to attend.

A new strategic partnership between NHSF and E-RIHS UK

In the latest move to build UK heritage science capacity, E-RIHS UK and the National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF) announce a new strategic partnership for wider engagement with the UK research and heritage sectors. The partnership will help develop a distributed heritage science research infrastructure hub in the UK and will open new avenues for engagement between British and international heritage science communities.

The partnership helps strengthen NHSF relationships with those who already are part of E-RIHS such as the National Gallery or the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. Once the research infrastructure is launched, the NHSF members will be able to access a range of research facilities and expertise in the UK and internationally, from mobile instrumentation, archival material to integrated databases. That’s because E-RIHS and the NHSF will be part of a wider research consortium bringing together renowned heritage organisations in sixteen countries. E-RIHS UK will benefit from NHSF’s wide-ranging expertise in the areas of policy engagement, strategic insight, sector research and resource sharing.

May Cassar, the national coordinator of E-RIHS, said: “this partnership will increase the visibility and strength of UK heritage science distributed infrastructures

The National Heritage Science Forum brings together leading heritage science organisations in the UK. It is committed to demonstrating the public benefit of heritage science and works through its members to improve partnerships within the sector and with others. The Forum responds to policy issues, facilitates the sharing of equipment and resources, improves access to heritage science research, collates data on funding and research activity and increases public engagement with heritage science through its communication activities. The current membership of NHSF comprises eighteen organisations, including The National Archives, Tate, National Galleries Scotland, Historic Royal Palaces, ICON and the National Trust.

Alastair McCapra, NHSF Chairman, said: “NHSF is delighted to have formed this partnership with E-RIHS UK and sees the opportunities it presents for mutually supportive activity as critical to achieving the step-change in heritage science infrastructure that we need. UK heritage science research has a key role to play in addressing important challenges such as adaptation to climate change or enhanced access to, and understanding of, heritage through developments in digital technology. These challenges are best addressed by working together and this new partnership will help organisations in the UK to do that.”

E-RIHS UK is a national heritage science hub comprising thirteen institutional members from universities, to research facilities, heritage organisations and museums. It seeks to build a British chapter of an international consortium with a vision to transform research on heritage interpretation, preservation, documentation and management. E-RIHS aims to provide advanced services to the scientific community through bringing together cutting-edge tools and expertise:

(i)         E-RIHS ARCHLAB: access to physical collections, such as objects, technical images, samples and reference materials, analytical data and conservation documentation, as stored in museums, galleries and research institutions

(ii)        E-RIHS DIGILAB: online access to digital tools concerning heritage and data, with the aim to make it FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable). This includes and enables access to searchable registries of datasets, reference collections, thesauri, ontologies etc., and supports data interoperability through the creation of shared knowledge organization systems

(iii)       E-RIHS FIXLAB: large-scale and medium-scale fixed facilities – e.g. particle accelerators, neutron and laser sources and other essentially immovable research facilities including the associated unique expertise

(iv)       E-RIHS MOLAB: access to a comprehensive selection of mobile analytical instrumentation for non-invasive measurements on objects, buildings, and sites, allowing the implementation of complex multi-technique diagnostic projects for in situ investigations.

The partnership with NHSF is part of E-RIHS overall strategy to build connected national and international heritage science research capabilities. As part of the new partnership, in the first place NHSF representatives will join the E-RIHS steering committee during the forthcoming annual meeting in January 2019.

Further information:

National Heritage Science Forum,

Caroline Peach –


Magdalena Buchczyk –

Reflections on the E-RIHS IPERION CH international workshop: “From Cross-disciplinary Research to Heritage Science”

On October 18th 2018 experts from over sixteen countries were brought together for an international workshop “From Cross-disciplinary Research to Heritage Science” in Florence, Italy organised by E-RIHS and IPERION CH. The meeting aimed to celebrate and reflect on the twenty-year multidisciplinary collaboration between the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (OPD), as well as address the future vision and challenges of heritage science research and collaboration within Europe. The workshop included speakers from OPD, CNR, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and University College London (UCL).

The first half of the day focused on presentations about important collaborations and research projects that have shaped heritage science research so far. The workshop began with a fitting tribute to The Fogg Art Museum Technical Laboratory in 1928, one of the first collaborative centres of art history, conservation and science. Speakers later reported on more recent collaborative projects like the new developments in high-resolution infrared imaging at the CNR-OPD laboratory; CAST:ING, the interdisciplinary framework facilitating advances in the understanding of bronze sculpture; and the scientific analysis and conservation of Jackson Pollack’s ‘Alchemy’ painting at Guggenheim Venice. The presentations gave the audience a deep appreciation of the history and progression of the field and showcased the future possibilities of heritage science research collaborations within E-RIHS. Key take-aways include:

  • Interdisciplinarity is key. Past and present projects show that humanities and sciences are compatible disciplines that need to be used together to best preserve our heritage. Researchers are continually working together to improve technologies to investigate heritage objects.
  • Heritage scientists and conservators are a critical conscience to the global challenge of the heritage preservation. We as experts need to determine the demand for conservation as we are best equipped to recognise the symptoms of deterioration.
  • E-RIHS can increase the impact of heritage science by fostering collaborative and cross-disciplinary skills, providing a common forum for STEM and humanities users and researchers, and enable a shared identity through a strong heritage science network.

The second half of the day considered the future vision and mission of heritage science. Here, speakers explored how E-RIHS will help shape this future international landscape, concluding in a Round Table discussion between heritage actors in the museum sector, private industry, policy and economics. Speakers presented the exciting opportunities ahead of us and the foreseen impacts of the E-RIHS vision:

  • New knowledge and new methods
  • Data sciences and imaging
  • Democratisation of knowledge through digital platforms
  • Industrial opportunities
  • A new generation of scientists

All of which will have impact beyond the heritage science community. The presenters also discussed key global challenges that will need to be addressed by E-RIHS; including global inequality and vulnerability between countries, the need to increase the impact of heritage science, and a lack of a clear ‘heritage scientist’ identity; leaving the participants with provocative ideas to be considered.

Overall, it was a fantastic day of knowledge sharing where participants were able to extensively discuss the past, current and future state of European heritage science. The full roundtable discussion is available here and the speakers presentations will soon be available on

Parliament and Me Podcast Launch with May Cassar

To celebrate parliament Week 2018 and the year of VOTE100, UCL Public Policy have produced a series of podcasts featuring UCL  experts and the women who have inspired them in their journeys.

E-RIHS UK National Coordinator, Professor May Cassar has been invited to speak about Heritage Science and policy on the UCL Parliament and Me podcast, a series celebrating UCLs engagement with the world of policy. May was also joined by Baroness Margaret Sharp, who inspired her to engage with Parliament and who she considers “a much-needed champion of heritage science.” Together they share stories from their eighteen years working together, including the pivotal 2006 Parliamentary Inquiry into Science and Heritage by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, their shared ideals of public engagement, memory and community impact, and the creation of the Mobile Heritage Lab, a portable laboratory to reach fixed, large and fragile heritage objects.

Listen May’s episode here. You can also follow the whole Parliament and Me series here.

ICCROM and E-RIHS signed a statement of cooperation

The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science will have more and easier access to a game-changing global expertise, thanks to a newly announced partnership. On 6. September at the Interim E-RIHS PP meeting in Warsaw, Luca Pezzatti, the E-RIHS PP coordinator, signed the letter of cooperation with Webber Ndoro, Director – General of International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). In the presence of Alison Heritage, ICCROM’s Heritage Science Officer, E-RIHS has sealed the first partnership with a renowned global heritage organisation.

The event took place in the state-of-the-art Biological and Chemical Research Centre at Warsaw University (CNBCh UW), a research facility located on the “Ochota” Campus. The CNBCh UW is dedicated to scientists conducting advanced research in the development of new technologies in the fields of cultural heritage, environmental conservation and new materials.

Luca Pezzatti, E-RIHS PP coordinator, and Alison Heritage, ICCROM’s Heritage Science Officer, finalising the signing of the statement during the E-RIHS PP meeting in Warsaw

Established in 1956, ICCROM works to promote the conservation of all forms of cultural heritage across the world. With a membership of 136 Member States, it supports those working on the front lines of heritage preservation, including scientists, conservators, museum curators, site managers, archivists, researchers and archaeologists through world-class initiatives in conservation training, information, research, cooperation and advocacy. For more information about ICCROM, see here.

This unique partnership will put a strong  emphasis on advocacy, training and capacity building, knowledge exchange, impact enhancement and institutional relationships. As the partners stated, “effective and ongoing global cooperation between countries, institutions, and stakeholders is fundamental for the sustainable conservation of cultural heritage. A key aspect of such cooperation is the advancement of conservation practice and capacities worldwide through shared access to up to date knowledge, tools and training. To this end heritage science, as a provider of knowledge and tools is a vital resource of
global importance for cultural heritage conservation.” For full text of the Statement of Cooperation between ICCROM & E-RIHS see here.

The UK hub is particularly keen on working with ICCROM on training and capacity building. ICCROM has an international reputation for developing innovative educational programmes, tools and materials for conservation and restoration, and organising professional training activities around the world. The partnership aims to establish joint “development and delivery of diverse
training opportunities to enable transdisciplinary working within heritage science”. The E-RIHS Training Academy, led by UCL, one of the UK hub members, will hugely benefit from the partnership in designing and delivering state of the art training to heritage scientists, research infrastructure managers and users.

The signing of the letter of cooperation demonstrates E-RIHS’s international commitment to strengthening strategic relationships, building global connections and collective capabilities, and establishing the international cooperation to come together to achieve common goals in the protection, conservation and management of cultural heritage. For more information about E-RIHS’s global vision, see here.


Making archives work for research

The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science, E-RIHS [ˈīris], is working to launch DIGILAB: the new data and service infrastructure for the heritage science research community.  The DIGILAB platform will provide remote services to the heritage science research community but will also be relevant to and accessible by professionals, practitioners and heritage managers. DIGILAB will enable access to research information as well as to general documentation of analyses, conservation, restoration and any other kind of relevant information about heritage research and background references, such as controlled vocabularies, authority lists and virtual reference collections. For more details about DIGILAB see here.

By safeguarding information and enabling access to it, archives provide an indispensable component of the digital ecosystem of cultural heritage. As current archival approaches are quite fragmented, there is a critical need for an overarching methodology addressing business and operational issues, and technical solutions for ingest, preservation and re-use. One of our partners, the University of Brighton’s Cultural Informatics Research and Enterprise Group, has developed an extensive expertise in the area of digital preservation. In particular, the team has an established reputation for work in the curation and preservation of complex objects such as 3D renditions of cultural artefacts, as well as in data warehousing, database archiving, and data mining. With this background in coordination and dissemination, the team took a leading role in E-ARK, working on piloting a pan-European methodology for electronic document archiving.

Between 2014 – 2017, the Group coordinated a consortium of 17 partners from the UK, Slovenia, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Estonia and others. As part of the E-ARK (European Archival Records and Knowledge Preservation) consortium, the group worked to synthesise existing national and international best practices to keep records and databases authentic and usable over time. The project results fed into building an archival infrastructure across the EU and in environments where different legal systems and records management traditions apply. E-ARK has also demonstrated the potential benefits for public administrations, public agencies, public services, citizens and business by providing simple, efficient access to the workflows for the three main activities of an archive – acquiring, preserving and enabling re-use of information. The E-ARK open source, digital archiving framework, complete with accompanying metadata and other standards, has been thoroughly tested and has made a significant impact on the institutions who carried out the pilots: this has been assessed by carrying out semi-structured interviews at the pilot sites based on a detailed impact questionnaire. The results improved public awareness and allow web-based access to tools. The project worked to make archival processes open to re-evaluation, and to enhance the preservation and visualisation of archives. The expertise of University of Brighton’s Cultural Informatics Research and Enterprise Group as well as other UK partners, from the Archaeology Data Service to the National Gallery, will contribute to the construction of the DIGILAB and its services for new communities of users.

About the Cultural Informatics Research and Enterprise Group

The Group’s research focuses on technical areas, including 3D digitisation technologies, virtual environments, archives and collections management systems, web and museum based interactive applications and language technologies; and non-technical areas, including testing, economic and social impact evaluation in support of the development of the cultural heritage sector and its opportunities in tourism, entertainment and education.

As an expert in international project management, the group is a leader of the E-RIHS Risk Management Framework to design, implement, monitor and improve risk management consistently and efficiently across all aspects of the research infrastructure’s activities. It will enable a Corporate Risk Management function to be embedded in the structure and support audit activities.


Tailoring scientific equipment at ISAAC is improving art historical research

E-RIHS UK partners often design and build bespoke machines and scientific instruments for use in galleries, museums and heritage sites. Based at Nottingham Trent University, ISAAC has been innovating scientific instruments and applying its expertise to solving conservation, art history and archaeology problems across the globe. The laboratory is unique in developing advanced non-invasive imaging systems that are not only novel in optical and remote sensing instrumentation but also novel in applications to the museum and cultural heritage sector.

Among the technique innovation offered by the laboratory, ISAAC has been working on the improvements in Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). OCT involves fast, non-invasive, non-contact, microscopic imaging of subsurface cross-section and 3D tomography. This imaging method, originally designed for biomedical applications such as in vivo examination of the eye, facilitates non-invasive 3D imaging of subsurface microstructure. As the original OCTs have been optimised for medical use, ISAAC has been researching ways of improving its capabilities for use in the heritage sector.

During instrumentation innovation projects, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Arts and Humanities Science and Heritage Programme, ISAAC built and tested prototype OCT systems to generate ‘virtual’ cross-sections of paintings and heritage objects. To this end, the laboratory has worked with heritage partners such as the National Gallery and English Heritage to increase the depth resolution and the probing depth of the instruments. The improved OCT technique enabled in-depth images of artist’s preliminary sketches and underdrawings. It also facilitated a detailed examination of the painting surfaces, and the distribution of the remains of old varnishes. The innovation has reduced the need for sampling and enable the subsurface microstructure to be imaged on intact objects where sampling was not possible. It has also encouraged more frequent and thorough examination of the whole object for early warning of deterioration. For Carolyn Allen from the Leverhulme Trust, developing an instrument that “‘sees through’ layers of paint and varnish, revealing previously hidden levels of detail about paintings and other historical artefacts”.

Bespoke OCT is a powerful imaging tool for heritage institutions. It helps to inform conservation strategy and create long-term savings in the cost of conservation through monitoring degree of deterioration. It also enables the scientists to explore new problems in conservation and art history that the next generation OCT can help to solve. According to Dr Liang, as ISAAC has established Optical Coherence Tomography as a new field of heritage science, the laboratory has been deploying the technique for new user communities:

“We now have a much more enthusiastic response from the conservation community and even private conservators contact us wanting to have access to this type of instrument”.

The ISAAC team has used their bespoke equipment on a variety of projects such as the influential studies of manufacturing techniques of the Limoges enamel and ancient Egyptian Faience at the British Museum or wall paintings at the Tower of London.

Currently, ISAAC is equipped with a range of in-house developed OCT systems that could be used not only in research on underdrawings, but also studies involving the detection of delamination of internal layers and monitoring of varnish removal and glass deterioration. Recently, the team has extended the application of OCT to a variety of industrial and biomedical problems. The laboratory and research group is continuously collaborating with other E-RIHS partners in research and innovation in multiple heritage science applications.


The Imaging & Sensing for Archaeology, Art History & Conservation laboratory (ISAAC) has been applying cutting-edge science to cultural heritage challenges for over twelve years. The laboratory focuses on applications of scientific techniques and works in collaboration with conservation scientists, conservators, archaeologists, archaeological scientists and art historians and curators. Previous collaborations included partners in the heritage sector in the UK, Europe, China, and USA.

The laboratory uses a wide range of instruments, including:

  • Spectral imaging systems
  • Fibre optic reflectance spectrometer (FORS)
  • Portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer
  • Compact Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer
  • Raman Spectrometer
  • Microfade spectrometry
  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) systems
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) Mouse

More information:

ISAAC research group
Selection of ISAAC projects

SUERC Radiocarbon Facility is transforming dating techniques

The Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre’s Radiocarbon Facility in East Kilbride is a central facility for the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), facilitating dating support in the environmental sciences. It provides UK scientists and international collaborators with radiocarbon measurements.

The centre has an excellent track record of technical innovation and drives new developments in the carbon isotope dating techniques for heritage science.  Speaking to Irish News, professor Stewart Freeman and a senior scientist in advanced mass spectroscopy at SUERC said that the laboratory activity has a leading role in method development. For professor Freeman, “It is not an exaggeration to say the global carbon dating community has its eyes on East Kilbride to see how this advances our field.”

The NERC Radio Carbon Facility (NRCF) has an “open-door” policy for all existing and potential users of its facilities at all stages of their research projects. The facility is strongly encouraging collaboration and currently invites applications to the NRCF Steering Committee. Submissions should by sent directly to the facility by 5th October 2018

Courtesy of SUERC


The Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre is one of thirteen E-RIHS UK partners. SUERC was established to provide to the universities of the Scottish consortium collaborative access to state-of-the-art research equipment and expertise. The main areas of strength are in geochemistry, radiochemistry and isotope biogeosciences and the Centre houses perhaps the most comprehensive suite of dating techniques available in the UK.

Apart from NERC Radiocarbon Facility (East Kilbride), SUERC operates another Radiocarbon Laboratory. It is involved in archaeological, forensic and environmental research, additionally using stable isotopes (13C and 15N) for dietary reconstruction. As well as undertaking its own in-house and collaborative research, the SUERC Radiocarbon Laboratory also provides a radiocarbon dating service to national and international museums, universities and archaeology units. Other key facilities include Argon Isotope Facility, Isotope Community Support Facility and Cosmogenic Isotope Analysis Facility.

Heritage Science editorial by Professor Matija Strlic, E-RIHS UK member, published in Angewandte Chemie

Professor Matija Strlic’s editorial ‘Heritage Science: A Future‐Oriented Cross‐Disciplinary Field’ was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, published by Wiley, earlier this month

Angewandte Chemie is one of the top science journals, with a clear applied chemistry focus. The editorial represents an introduction to the Heritage Science Special Issue of the journal.

Heritage science is an umbrella term that encompasses conservation science, archaeological science, and building science: regardless of whether the object of study is an iconic painting, a mummy, or a monumental building, the scientific methods and the approaches to research are often similar.

In the editorial, Professor Strlic discusses the philosophical and theoretical canon of the field as well as the grand challenges that the field faces in the future. In relation to physical sciences, these have been outlined as (i) Understanding of heritage ecologies, and (ii) Developing networked heritage ecosystems.

When discussing the importance of heritage science today Professor Strlic states, “It enables both society and individuals, as well as future generations, to exercise their right to cultural heritage and contributes to our understanding of who we are and our sense of place. It has a deeply social purpose”.

Read full editorial here

UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage is one of the leading centres of research and teaching. It trains future curators, managers and researchers whose work leads to innovative and sustainable solutions in the heritage context. In partnership with another E-RIHS member, the University of Brighton, the Institute hosts SEAHA, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology. UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage is leading the development of the E-RIHS Academy, a bespoke suite of training for the E-RIHS scientific community.

The Special Issue was a significant success for UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage academics and students, with several CDT Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology academics and students also publishing their research in the Issue. See, e.g.

Classifying Degraded Modern Polymeric Museum Artefacts by Their Smell, by Curran et al.

Glass and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe: An Analytical Study of Glassware from the Oberstockstall Laboratory in Austria, by Veronesi & Martinón‐Torres

A Synchrotron‐Based Study of the Mary Rose Iron Cannonballs, by Simon et al.

Egyptian Grave Goods of Kha and Merit Studied by Neutron and Gamma Techniques, by Festa et al.

Crowd‐sourcing as an analytical method: Metrology of smartphone measurements in heritage science, by Brigham et al.

‘Preserving the Bits: Digital Preservation within Heritage Science’ lecture by E-RIHS UK Julian Richards (ADS)

On Thursday 19 April, UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, our member organization, hosted a Guest Lecture delivered by Julian Richards, the Director of the Archaeology Data Service at the University of York and our partner in the E-RIHS UK hub. Julian discussed issues of permanent data preservation, as well as the opportunities to provide unparalleled access.

You can watch the talk here.

Archaeology Data Service is the task leader on data curation and data policy of E-RIHS, contributing to the creation of DIGILAB, a pioneering facility providing virtual access to scientific and heritage data from research and heritage institutions. In the UK, the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) has been working for over 20 years to ensure long-term preservation and access to archaeological data. It now disseminates over 1.3 million metadata records to the archaeology of the British Isles, over 45,000 unpublished fieldwork reports, as well as over 1400 rich research archives. All of these are freely available online, and the ADS is working with international partners to promote broader research e-infrastructures for archaeology.