Filling the gaps #6 Creating appropriate environments

The sixth area of research need identified by the National Heritage Science Strategy evidence report is ‘Creating appropriate environments’.

Our associated survey seeks to collect information about research that has been carried out, since 2009 in two main areas:

  1. The ways in which environmental conditions can be controlled to reduce decay rates, by carrying out research into:
  • How buildings, and historic buildings in particular, perform
  • The use of natural ventilation, and other methods of passive environmental control
  • The use of microenvironments to reduce deterioration.

2. A better understanding of the environmental parameters that are critical to the survival of waterlogged archaeological remains, improving the managed of these sites by research to:

  • assess the level of moisture content that is sufficient to retard degradation
  • improve the characterisation of the chemical and biological composition of burial environments (both urban and rural)
  • enhance characterisation of burial environments of maritime sites which are currently poorly understood.

Please help us to ‘fill the gaps’ by adding your knowledge of research carried out since 2009, published or unpublished, that addresses these issues to our survey form.

You don’t need to complete all the fields on the form, but the more information you are able to provide, the more useful a resource we’ll be able to make available – to people using heritage science research, to researchers identifying new projects, and to funders supporting heritage science research.

Thank you for your contributions

National Heritage Science Forum

Filling the Gaps in heritage science research #5 Understanding modern materials behaviour (built historic environment)

Filling the Gaps #5 looks at research needed to understand modern materials behaviour as applied to the built historic environment.

The areas that the National Heritage Science Strategy identifies as needing further work are:

  • understanding mechanisms and rates of concrete decay
  • reducing/slowing concrete decay
  • improving in situ treatment of corrosion of concrete reinforcement
  • reviewing the range and stability of aluminium and aluminium alloys used in modern buildings (i.e. windows)
  • identifying treatment options for plated metals
  • assessing long-term stability of polymers and other materials used in cladding systems

As before, we’re looking to gather information on research that has been carried out in these areas, since 2009,  through our survey form.

The survey asks for information about the research including the title of the project, who carried it out, where it was carried out, whether it is published etc. You don’t need to fill out all the fields, but the more information you are able to provide, the more complete a resource we’ll be able to provide to the heritage science community.

Many thanks for your contribution to this work

National Heritage Science Forum

Filling the Gaps in heritage science research #4 Understanding material behaviour of modern materials used in movable items

Our quest to ‘Fill the Gaps’ in knowledge and practice identified in the research underpinning the National Heritage Science Strategy moves to modern materials used in movable items.

The National Heritage Science Strategy evidence report singled out modern materials as a specific sub-theme to reflect the relative lack of current understanding and research, the inherent instability of many early synthetic materials and rapid rate of deterioration, and limited number of specialists.

Particular areas of priority, for movable items (including plastics, foams, photographs, magnetic tape), are:

  • defining appropriate storage conditions
  • understanding the impacts of different cleaning regimes and improved methods of cleaning
  • investigation of new treatment methods and assessment of their long term impacts
  • standardisation of methods of condition assessment (ways to record extent and rate of deterioration) for plastics
  • improved monitoring of degradation
  • a lack of equipment/ access to equipment for identification of plastics
  • a need for better understanding of the future management and storage requirements of contemporary art, created using mixed media and non-artists materials
  • a suitable and safely removed varnish for acrylic paintings
  • methods of storage and improved understanding of the long-term stability of photographs, slides, negatives and cine film
  • the preservation of audio visual material including digital media
  • non-damaging recovery/playback methods for degraded audio visual media
  • defining ideal storage conditions for architectural drawing film
  • the conservation and long-term management of acetate and other heat set document laminates

Please add your knowledge of research that addresses any of these areas against the relevant heading to our survey. It can be published or unpublished research, completed or underway. Our only criteria is that the project started in or after 2009. You can complete the survey multiple times to add more than one piece of information against the same research area.

Many thanks for your help

National Heritage Science Forum

The ‘Filling the Gaps’ themes are:

Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of movable items  (links to survey)
Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of built historic environment (links to survey)
Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of archaeology (links to survey)
Understanding the material behaviour of modern materials (movable items)
Understanding the material behaviour of modern materials (built historic environment)
Creating appropriate environments
Adapting to climate change
Improving practice in the assessment and monitoring of state
Improving practice: past present and future conservation treatments
Increasing access to tools and knowledge

 

Filling the Gaps in Heritage Science research #3 Decay mechanisms and rates of decay of archaeological material

Filling the Gaps #3 moves on to archaeological material.

The ‘gaps in knowledge and understanding’ in the decay mechanisms and rates of decay of archaeological material that were flagged up in the National Heritage Science Strategy included a need for research into the following topics:

  • the response of organic and inorganic archaeological materials to short, and long term fluctuations in water level
  • the rate of degradation of organic materials following de-watering
  • the impact of chemical agents (contamination, fertilisers) on artefacts
  • the role of micro-organisms in degradation of waterlogged burial material and factors causing increased activity
  • the impact of compression on artefacts (from construction)
  • post-excavation changes to archaeological materials and mitigate their effects
  • the deterioration of archaeological soil samples, what information is lost during long-term storage
  • the impacts of exposure of marine archaeological remains

If you know of research that has been carried out into any of these areas since 2009, please add information to our survey form at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Y5DDMPW

It doesn’t have to be comprehensive but if you can help us track down resources, we will be able to use the results to share information about existing heritage science research as well as to show which ‘gaps’ remain in the National Heritage Science Strategy as areas for future research and funding.

Thank you for all your contributions so far!

National Heritage Science Forum

Filling the Gaps in Heritage Science research #2 Decay mechanisms and rates of decay of the built historic environment

Continuing our series of posts to map research to the gaps in knowledge and practice identified in the National Heritage Science Strategy (NHSS), this second request for input covers research into decay mechanisms and rates of decay of the built historic environment.

The NHSS identified seven specific topics that would benefit from greater understanding.

These are:

  • the behaviour and methods of control of soluble salts in buildings
  • the impact of multi-pollutant urban environments and nitrogen oxides in particular on building fabric
  • the impact of the use of inappropriate materials for repair
  • the impact of non-conservation stone cleaning which can lead to acid decay and increased microbial growth
  • the interaction between moisture, microbes (e.g. biofilms) and salts in stone degradation
  • vibration damage to historic monuments
  • the impact of fire resistant treatments on the longevity of organic materials (i.e. thatch)

Our survey monkey form at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DXKHX2V can be used to record information about research in any of these areas, published or unpublished, since 2009.

Please circulate this link/posting and help us to build up, and share, knowledge of existing research as well as identify which gaps remain so that we can promote remaining opportunities to researchers, funders and policy makers.

Many thanks
National Heritage Science Forum

Filling the Gaps in Heritage Science research #1 Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of movable items

In 2015 NHSF commissioned an initial review of the heritage science research that had been carried out since 2009. The resulting report ‘Filling the Gaps’ maps research listed on the Gateway to Research (i.e. funded by the UK Research Councils) to the gaps in knowledge and practice identified in “The role of science in the management of the UK’s heritage”, one of the three evidence reports produced to support the development of the National Heritage Science Strategy.

NHSF now wants to work with the heritage science community to ‘crowd-source’ knowledge of heritage science research to further ‘fill the gaps’ in the 10 topics identified in the evidence report.

We want to identify the gaps in knowledge and practice that remain so that we can promote them to researchers and funders as opportunities to be addressed in the future. We also want to be able to share information on where to find research that has been carried out.

We’re going to blog every couple of days with a new topic from the strategy, providing a link to the survey form you can use to add your knowledge of research, published or unpublished since 2009.

We start with eleven themes from the topic ‘Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of movable items’

The National Heritage Science Strategy evidence report identified a need for improved understanding of:

·      acceptable limits of RH & temperature in degradation of organic materials and metals

·      the impact of cumulative light exposure on different materials

·      the effectiveness of low oxygen/anoxic conditions for storage and display

·      tolerable levels of particulate and gaseous pollutants

·      the effects of high pressure water mist for fire control on organic materials

·      vibration impacts from increased visitor numbers and during transport

·      the degradation mechanisms of metal polyphenol dyes (black dyes, i.e. iron gall ink)

·      the degradation mechanisms of leather

·      the deterioration of biological molecular structure of natural history collections

·      methods to control soluble/insoluble salts in collections (ceramics, glass and stone)

·      how often cleaning of dust should take place

Please add your knowledge of research that addresses any of these areas against the relevant headings in the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DWSDVPD.

It can be published or unpublished research, completed or underway. Our only criteria is that the project started in or after 2009. You can complete the survey multiple times to add more than one piece of information against the same research area.

The eleven areas are listed as separate survey questions with fields for  Author(s), Lead organisation, Project title etc. You don’t have to fill in all the information but clearly the more you can provide, the more helpful a resource we’ll be able to develop.

We have also asked for information on the funding source and approximate amount of funding for the research/projects. This information is optional but if you can add it, it will help us to build up a picture of how heritage science research has been funded in recent years, which will be particularly useful as we potentially move to a new funding environment following the outcome of the UK Referendum vote to leave the European Union.

Many thanks for your contribution to this project – please share this link amongst your colleagues!
National Heritage Science Forum

 

 

Five minutes with…Fay Worley, Zooarchaeologist at Historic England

Our second blog post during the Festival of Archaeology comes from Fay Worley, Zooarchaeologist at Historic England. In this ‘five minutes with…’ posts she describes to us how she became interested in zooarchaeology and shares examples of her work in the field at Historic England.

I’ve been interested in animals, skeletons, historic places and field archaeology since I was a child. By the time I reached university I’d realised that I could combine these interests in zooarchaeology. I undertook a Bioarchaeology BSc and zooarchaeology focussed PhD at the University of Bradford, including a placement year spent in developer-funded and curatorial archaeology. I then worked as an animal bone specialist at Oxford Archaeology before moving to English Heritage, the predecessor to Historic England.

As a zooarchaeologist, I analyse and report on animal bone assemblages excavated from archaeological sites. For me, this involves examining the bone fragments, identifying them to animal species and skeleton part based on their shape, and looking for evidence of their life history, and what has happened to them since their death. These data are used to form interpretations about the animals, people and past activities at the archaeological site, and in combination with other assemblages, to inform broader studies of cultural behaviours.

Working as a zooarchaeologist at Historic England I also have an advisory role. This includes working with the Professional Zooarchaeology Group and Association for Environmental Archaeology, providing training, and helping to manage a large reference collection. It also allows me to be involved in external projects and research partnerships – I’m currently part of the University of Reading and Historic England team excavating at Marden and Wilsford henges in Wiltshire.

I love that my role is really varied and often provides challenges or exciting discoveries. The most challenging project recently, and one that I feel most proud of, was the production of guidelines for zooarchaeology with my colleague Poly Baker. It was an epic task, with contributions from many other zooarchaeologists, and the end result has been well received.

In terms of exciting discoveries, two completely different assemblages come to mind. The first is from the earliest fills of Wilsford henge ditch, excavated last year, and currently sitting on my lab benches. The assemblage is almost exclusively large cattle bones from at least four or five bulls and cows, which were butchered using flint tools around four and a half thousand years ago. Cuts of meat were removed and some bones were scorched and smashed open, before the remains were dumped in the ditch at the entrance to the henge. Along with the bones was a rather lovely red deer antler pick, which may have been used to dig the ditch.

Fig1_LateNeolithicCattleBones
Figure 1. Examining some of the Late Neolithic cattle bones from Wilsford henge, Wilts

The second is a Roman dog, which died as a young adult and was carefully buried in a stone and tile cist at the site of a villa in Northamptonshire. When I started examining the dog I realised that it is very small, comparable in height to the modern Chihuahua or Maltese breeds. Researching other archaeological dogs has shown that it is one of the smallest adult dogs ever found in Roman Britain. Its skeleton is also providing clues to its appearance and life style which I’m hoping to be able to investigate further with the University of Nottingham.

Fig2_RomanLapDogNorthamptonshire
Figure 2. A small Roman lap dog from Northamptonshire