Tag Archives: UK

Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar: a review

Heritage Scientist Natalie Brown attended the Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar recently organised by E-RIHS UK, along with the ICON Heritage Science Group (HSG) and National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF). Here’s her review:

As a heritage scientist I collect and use data on a daily basis; whether it’s documenting objects, collecting and analysing scientific data, or integrating data collected by others. However, like many other researchers, I have sometimes underestimated the value of my data to wider audiences. The Making Heritage Science Data FAIR and Impactful seminar was a good opportunity both for me to better understand my data, and an occasion to meet other heritage scientists and find out how they collect, use and manage data.

Professor May Cassar, director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage and UK national coordinator of E-RIHS, kicked the day off by introducing the organisers and highlighted why this kind of seminar is so important for the heritage community. All three organisations engage individually with professionals around data and use, for example, one of the main streams of E-RIHS is digital data and FAIR principles is a core concept within the research infrastructure. ICON HSG aims to support access to heritage science data and improve dialogue between Heritage Scientists and related professionals to develop best practices, as we have recently seen with the ethical sampling guide and NHSF has recently published a national Strategic Framework for Heritage Science. As such, it was motivating to see the three organisers coming together to build a stronger, integrated heritage science community.

The day began with a series of presentations, followed by an expert round table, and tours of the new technology applied by heritage researchers at UCL. From the presentations, participants gained greater understanding of differing types of heritage science data and how FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) can be applied to them. There were also animated discussions about ‘born digital’ data, ‘big data’ projects, and the economic power of data.

The first session explored what heritage science data is and how different institutions collect, manage and store it. Three case studies were presented; Fishbourne Roman Palace (presented by Rob Symmons), ISIS Neutron and Muon Source – Science & Technology Facilities Council (presented by Antonella Scherillo), and Historic England (presented by Paul Bryan). Each presenter drew from their own experiences and it was beneficial to hear about the range of techniques currently being used for various types of data and different organisational infrastructures. Although FAIR principles are being used in heritage science, it was clear from the presentations that it is tied to an institution’s capabilities.

The second session focused on dissemination and impact. Tim Evans from Archaeological Data Service (ADS) discussed how ADS make their resources available through their online catalogue, as well as wider issues around data access and how we can improve this – something that E-RIHS is hoping to achieve through their DIGILAB platform. Sara Gould (British Library) and Luigi Galimeberti (Tate) continued the session, discussing their project to create a shared research repository showcasing the multidisciplinary research conducted by organisations; to monitor and evaluate the impact of the research across organisations; and play a fundamental role in centralising, preserving and making research accessible. Currently the project is in its pilot phase but it could offer an exciting opportunity for professionals to instigate FAIR principles across UK organisations. Maja Maricevic (British Library) brought the presentations to a close with a thought-provoking presentation about heritage data’s economic impact and the opportunities and challenges heritage organisations face when dealing with large amounts of data.

The seminar concluded with a round table discussion. Experts debated larger questions, such as changing technologies; the political landscape, and how this will affect FAIR principles; data ethics; how to best share data between institutions; and policy creation. They also discussed with the audience issues around resources and funding, data transfer, storage and how to disseminate data online. While not all the questions could be fully addressed by the panel, it was a great opportunity to start wider conversations about impact and FAIR heritage data.

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.


European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science receives kick-start funding

The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) and its UK part (E-RIHS.uk) supports cross-disciplinary research on heritage interpretation, preservation, documentation and management. As the first dedicated infrastructure of its kind, it consists of National Hubs and a Central Hub, supporting fixed and mobile national scientific infrastructures of recognized excellence, physically accessible collections/archives and virtually accessible heritage data.

Professor May Cassar, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, which is coordinating E-RIHS.uk, expressed optimism:

This recognition demonstrates the strength of this discipline as well as its strategic importance. Heritage science supports a range of UK sectors, such as museums generating  £1.5Bn p.a. income, while the conservation, repair and maintenance sector in England alone is  estimated at £4.7Bn. The sensors and instrumentation industry, supporting these activities, underpins a wide range of industrial activity with UK Sales amounting to £3Bn.

EU funding enables the 16 participating countries to develop the legal structure and the processes of access to research infrastructure, delivery of training, quality assurance as well as mobilise national heritage science communities.

Dr Ewan Hyslop, Head of Technical Research and Science, Historic Environment Scotland said:

It’s well documented that the effects of climate change present a serious, and increasing threat to heritage in Scotland, and it’s one of our organisation’s highest priorities to lead the sector in researching, understanding and addressing that impact. So today’s announcement comes as a timely and welcome boost.

Although the €4 million being announced today is of course a substantial financial investment, and serves to illustrate the extent of the problem being faced, perhaps the more encouraging aspect of today’s announcement is to see the formal commitment of some of the United Kingdom and Europe’s best and brightest organisations to pooling resources, sharing information and working together to tackle the challenges facing the sector.

The E-RIHS.uk partnership includes The British Museum, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, Historic Environment Scotland, Cardiff University, Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron Source, The National Gallery, Nottingham Trent University, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, University College London, University of Bradford, University of Brighton and University of York.


The global lead that Europe holds in this research field has so far been supported by a combination of national and EU funding mechanisms, which now requires a collaborative, coordinated effort in order to maintain this lead. E-RIHS Central Hub will be sited in Florence, hosted by the Italian National Research Council and coordinated by Luca Pezzati (www.e-rihs.eu).