Upon Closer Inspection…

Author: Joshua Bobbett, National Trust

Looking at analytical techniques and equipment during NHSF and UCM’s workshop ‘What can heritage science do for you?’

I attended the workshop entitled ‘What can heritage science do for you?’ on the 12th March 2019 at the British Library, held as part of British Science Week. Dr. Paola Ricciardi and Dr. Lora Angelova supported by the excellent staff at the British Library’s conservation department were able to provide a whistle-stop tour through the use and benefits of:

  • FTIR
  • Portable XRF
  • IR Imaging
  • Raman Spectroscopy
  • FORS
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Practical applications of analysis equipment along with the pros and cons of certain equipment were explored.

Exciting case studies of current analytical work were presented and used to colour the reasons of how heritage science can complement the usual glamour of engagement at our museum and gallery exhibitions. A personal highlight was discussion on the recent analysis of Isaac Oliver’s cabinet miniature of Lord Herbert of Cherbury (on display at Powis Castle in Mid Wales). Using the equipment listed above, Dr. Ricciardi’s explanation of how analysis brought forward the mystery of how Oliver may have learnt the art of cabinet miniatures in Flanders and not Britain as previously thought, based upon the analysis of green copper sulphate pigments displayed how these machines can offer so much more than just identification and data.

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Interpretations of spectra were shown to give ideas on further application of the equipment for our own collections.

The practical session during the afternoon gave the chance to get hands on with the equipment and get a good idea of the intended use, reliability and cost of each machine. The range of equipment and knowledge available during the day was able to complement all levels of experience, yet highly recommended for those employed in the heritage sector that are curious about covering another aspect of collections care which can often take place under the radar.

It is well worth keeping an eye out for more training and workshops from the NHSF on ICON’s website and if you’re employed in the heritage sector, checking if your own organisation is a member too!

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