Aesthetics within Heritage: Virginia Rush’s experience at the 3rd International SEAHA Conference

The National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF) provided bursaries to enable three Early Career Researchers to attend the 3rd International Conference on Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology. In our last blog post in this series, Virginia Rush, a doctoral student in Heritage Studies, reflects on her first encounter with heritage science at the conference.

As I was researching some new literature for my study (I am doing my PhD on Aesthetics in Heritage), I came across the SEAHA webpage and I was very pleased to find its new initiative: as a doctoral student in Heritage Studies, much of the discussion is derived from cultural studies, with no specific methods and epistemology regarding its object of study. Whereas Heritage Science, while focusing on cultural heritage, defines its ontology through the conservation practices of cultural heritage with the aim of enabling its access.

After reading about Heritage Science, I was ready to hear more: I contacted the organisers of the 3rd International SEAHA Conference and I was awarded a bursary to attend.

Virginia Rush IMG_7495

On the day of the conference, I was greeted and impeccably assisted by Mrs Pocobelli, Mrs Keats Webb and Mrs Caroline Peach from the NHSF. Hearing Dr Robert van Langh and the work done on the Rijksmuseum was a very inspiring introduction which set the mood for the day’s conference. I later attended the AICON 3D Systems/Hexagon UK breakout session on white light 3D scanning, having the opportunity to work with the projection systems and to receive specific advice on our scanning needs. Mrs Katy Lithgow’s talk was also remarkably enlightening regarding the National Trust vision and efforts. The Evening Reception, held at the Brighton Museum after a guided tour through the Pavilion, was an excellent closure to a first day full of sessions, visits and networking.

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Invited speaker Katy Lithgow (National Trust) talks about the benefits of interdisciplinary research

On the second day, the scheduled Breakout sessions proved to be relevant and innovative: I attended the Seebibyte presentation, which I found especially useful for managing Big Data and image analysis. Afterwards, Prof. May Cassar read a very inspiring presentation discussing the development of Heritage as an industry and as a production sector, engaging all the participants in a much-needed discussion regarding the values and positions of various heritage stakeholders. A last session on conservation methods and material analysis was seamlessly followed vby the closing ceremonies and remarks, which proved that through this and other endeavours, Heritage Science is not only possible but already a reality.

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Katharina Deering, from the Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine (Munich) discusses hazardous substances in museum collections

Having attended the conference helped me to learn about the state of the art in the UK, and also to understand major differences and positions within heritage conservation, as I went on to redefine my study and include a chapter on the need of a common theorisation regarding Heritage Studies and Heritage Sciences.

The 3rd International SEAHA Conference was held at the University of Brighton, UK from 19-20 June 2017. The Book of Abstracts can be found at:
SEAHA have just released photos of the conference; these can be viewed on their Flickr page.

Virginia Rush can be contacted at

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