SEAHA Conference 2018 – a review

In today’s guest post, SEAHA students Surbhi Goyal and Luz Frias Hernandez review their experience of the SEAHA 2018 Conference, which was held on 4-6th June at UCL.

The SEAHA Conference 2018 was a very interesting and enlightening experience to gain a perspective of different areas related to heritage science and the progress in this field of study.

Full of excitement, the first day started with an overwhelming exposure to the areas of archaeological research and cultural heritage in the first session of the series. The subject of new technologies that monitor timber frame buildings with infill panels was discussed, succeeded by a lecture on preventive conservation and 3D photogrammetry in monitoring of deformation.

The broad spectrum of understanding BIM in the prevention of historic environment was the area of focus in the second session of the conference. The lectures in this session mainly lay emphasis on the understanding the importance of 3D laser scanning of architectural ruins and the interdisciplinary study of invisible polychromies of the Basel Cathedral.

The third session of the talk was a discussion on the development of infrastructure research and presented extended accounts on the assessment of patinas and protective coatings for metals by a gel electrochemical cell as well the development of mobile nuclear magnetic resonance as a tool for the assessment of cultural heritage research. The concluding session of the conference was an insight to the topic of evidence supported policy-making. The presentation on the emission from PU insulation products followed by the engagement of industries to characterize volatile emissions from museum display cases were very in depth insights to this particular topic.


On the second day of the conference, the first talk was an exciting insight of the use of imaging analysis for conservation practices carried out at the National History Museum. Up next, the theme of materials was explored, starting with the innovative talk about the creation of gecko-inspired adhesives for heritage conservation followed by a talk about the use of 3D printing for reintegrating parts of heritage assemblies as well as a fascinating talk showing a project about violin varnishes. After a short break, we enjoyed a presentation about the use of parchment for biological archives through time. Subsequently, the sessions related to bio-chemo archaeology were a great way to learn about the analysis of DNA applied to heritage, as well as the use of industrial x-ray techniques for conservation. The discourse of data was exposed through some projects starting with the big panorama of big data collection and how it is being used in preservation. The importance of social engagement and awareness towards science and conservation projects was emphasised while knowing about the Zoouniverse project, talk that created an introduction to the following presentations about crowd sourcing and participatory research in heritage sites and museums.


Closing an outstanding day, an inspiring bit of the programme was the guided tour to the British Museum, where attendants were able to explore the part of the building where the science happens – while going into the conservation and imagenology labs, getting to know some processes that are performed to conserve those items that we can just see displayed in the museum exhibitions – it was without a doubt a one of a kind experience.

This event can really be enjoyed by everyone, as it has the potential of reaching all sorts of audiences by presenting amazing case studies and projects that everyone have seen or heard about. Even if you do not know much—or anything—about science but have a genuinely interest in culture and heritage, the SEAHA conference is the best place to explore these issues more in-depth but in a clear way in order to know the processes that heritage assemblies pass through to continue being appreciated by the public and preserved for future generations.

Overall, the SEAHA Conference 2018 was an encouraging opportunity to learn about the latest technologies that are being used in heritage conservation, all happening in a delightful ambience that fostered interaction between many professionals and students discussing these topics and sharing their experiences of working in the heritage science sector and their performance in a variety of fascinating projects – all that accompanied by a cup of tea, coffee and even ice cream, it truly could not be better!



Alison Trachet: Guest post on the SEAHA conference, 2017

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. Here Alison Trachet shares her experience of the conference.

Last week I traded the daily showers and cloudy skies of north central Florida for the warm, sunny shores of the south English coast to attend the 3rd International SEAHA Conference held in Brighton. SEAHA, which stands for Science and Engineering in Arts Heritage and Archaeology, is a revolutionary academic program training the next generation of heritage scientists. The very name “heritage science” implies collaboration between conservators, historians, and scientists, and thus the emphasis of this conference was on “interdisciplinarity”.

The two-day event began with several warm welcomes and a charge from SEAHA doctoral student Keats Webb to consider what you wanted from the conference and revisit this question after its end. I simply wanted to meet experts and emerging researchers as well as learn current research trends (and possibly hear about post-doctoral research opportunities), yet I experienced so much more. The first keynote speaker, Dr. Robert van Langh, addressed the economic impact of cultural heritage, something I had never considered. Katy Lithgow at The National Trust queried if heritage science is outgrowing interdisciplinary research and becoming its own field. Other fascinating research topics included occupational health and safety issues from pesticides, mechanical testing and characterization of tapestries and ancient Roman glass, and analyzing the smell of potpourri. I particularly enjoyed the budget air velocity measurer developed by Dr. Josep Grau-Bove: a thin strip of paper calibrated to register certain air velocities.

We ended the first day with a private tour of the Royal Pavilion, King George IV’s ornate seaside home.

Image of Royal Pavilion, Brighton
The Royal Pavilion, a famous Brighton landmark and unofficial mascot of the conference.

Despite being sold by the royal family, used as a hospital in World War I, set afire, and crushed by a heavy stone, the Pavilion can still be visited by the public thanks to heroic restoration efforts from a diverse team, making the building a perfect mascot for the conference. After our tour, I wandered about the Brighton museum with a glass of wine, nibbled on delicious appetisers, and chatted with new acquaintances about our professional backgrounds and interest in heritage science. We had the opportunity to individually talk to research presenters during these social events as well as during coffee breaks, the poster session, and at dinner with new colleagues. 

Image of SEAHA conference poster session
Curious conference goers enjoying the poster session

The SEAHA conference was the perfect place for me to catch up on relevant research, network with experts from a wide variety of fields including conservators, scientists, and industry members, and meet the next generation of heritage scientists. I look forward to next year’s conference, where perhaps I can share my own research struggles and results.

Image of seagull
One attendee was very keen on discussing ginger biscuits during a coffee break


The 3rd International SEAHA Conference was held at the University of Brighton, UK from 19-20 June 2017. The Book of Abstracts is available at:

Spotlight on SEAHA…Spotlight on Plastics

May’s blog posts are a ‘spotlight on SEAHA’ in preparation for the upcoming 2nd International SEAHA Conference in June. The posts will highlight SEAHA student research with the first post ‘Spotlight on Plastics’ from Anna Pokorska, Postgraduate Research Student, Institute for Sustainable Heritage, UCL.

Spotlight on Plastics

By Anna Pokorska, Postgraduate Research Student, Institute for Sustainable Heritage, UCL

Plastic materials have quickly become ubiquitous in our everyday lives, from ordinary use objects to high value works of art and design. They also have a contradictory reputation – on one hand plastics are thought of as durable due to the fact that they do not biodegrade. However, they are also often used as temporary and cheap substitutes for more valuable materials and not expected to last as long. In fact, the early plastics have intrinsic flaws which contribute to their degradation due to the largely experimental character of their production. Nevertheless, plastic objects of both natures can now be found in heritage collections. Artists and designers have also happily experimented with the use of the materials creating innovative artworks but also, at the same time, considerable challenges to conservators. Another critical issue is the sheer amount of different plastics and their combinations with various additives now available. However, in recent decades there has been a lot of research carried out in the field of conservation of these materials. Contributing to that movement is a project based at the Institute for Sustainable Heritage (ISH) at UCL which will investigate the stability of plastics to visible light as encountered in a museum or gallery environment.

V&A 20th century gallery display of plastics
Part of the V&A’s 20th century gallery displaying a variety of plastic artefacts


It is common knowledge that UV radiation is harmful to most materials and is therefore filtered out in heritage institutions. However, the sensitivity of various types of plastic formulations to visible light is not that well understood and consequently museum lighting guidelines for them remain somewhat vague and under-researched. Through collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum and Philips, the most up-to-date knowledge of plastic degradation and preservation will be brought together with cutting-edge lighting technology research. The main goal of this project will be to identify the long-term effect of visible light on the physical appearance and chemical structure of modern materials. Aspects of deterioration such as discolouration and crazing will be related to changes in the molecular structure of the materials thus increasing our understanding of the processes and visual impact of light-induced degradation.

Infrared spectroscopic analysis of degraded plastic sample
Carrying out infrared spectroscopic analysis of a degraded plastic sample at the Institute for Sustainable Heritage


A wide range of plastic types which will be tested will help identify those that may be sensitive to visible light exposure and dispel some of the contrasting results found in research so far. Following from that the project will focus more closely on the individual contribution of different parts of the visible light spectrum towards plastic decay. This will not only further expand our knowledge of light degradation but may also present an opportunity to reduce some of that damaging potential and preserve plastic artefacts for longer. The results from this project will also contribute towards improving lighting guidelines for display of plastic objects in collections by providing more specific recommendations for particular formulations as well as help define a more robust methodology for future studies.

SEAHA,  the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts Heritage and Archaeology, is a unique initiative that brings together academic, heritage and industry partners over an 8 year period (2014-2022) to meet challenges set by the heritage sector, industry and government.

SEAHA will hold its second international conference in Oxford on 20th-21st June. Alongside keynote speakers Sir Philip Campbell (Editor-in-Chief, Nature), Dr Ewan Hyslop (Head of Technical Research and Science, Historic Environment Scotland) and Dr Philippe Walter (Head of Laboratory of Molecular and Structural Archaeology, Sorbonne Universites, CNRS, UPMC), many of the SEAHA students will be presenting their work.

To find out more about the conference, visit