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from the strategy, providing a link to the survey form you can use to add your knowledge of research, published or unpublished since 2009.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

It can be published or unpublished research, completed or underway.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



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