STORMLAMP – A research project measuring the impact of waves on historic rock mounted lighthouses

Author: Eve Allen

STORMLAMP is a research project that monitors and measures the impact of waves on the structural performance of lighthouses.

The project began in May 2016 and has focused on six lighthouses spread across the British Isles. These lighthouses were selected due to the particularly extreme wave environments that surround them and their unique structural elements or operational issues.

The STORMLAMP project is a great example of how engineering can benefit communities, trade and heritage. Historic rock-mounted lighthouses continue to play an essential role in the safe navigation around perilous reefs. However, their longevity is threatened by the battering of waves which may be set to increase with climate change. Virtual navigational aids such as GPS are fallible, and reliance on them can be disastrous. Mariners will continue to need lighthouses as these physical visual aids are strategically placed to assist navigation. The loss of any reef lighthouse will be incalculable in terms of safety, commerce and heritage.

A person stood on a helipad by the coast flies a drone.
James Bassitt (University of Exeter) operating Phantom drone from helipad at Fastnet Lighthouse

This complex project requires a unique combination of skills available from three UK universities: University College London (UCL), University of Exeter and University of Plymouth.

Three people sit in knee deep water in the COAST laboratory simulator. A model lighthouse at scale 1:40 is in the foreground.
Alison Raby (University of Plymouth), Dassa Dassanayake (University of Plymouth), Peter Dobson (Trinity House) in the COAST Laboratory at University of Plymouth.

University of Plymouth works on predicting extreme storm conditions for offshore rock lighthouses using long-term metoceanic data. Plymouth also carries out physical tests using scale models of lighthouses and uses Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling to identify how wave loading interacts with these rock structures. University of Exeter accesses the lighthouses for installing monitoring systems and performing modal analysis in order to identify the structural characteristics of the lighthouses. Finally, UCL uses the data produced from the other two universities to carry out detailed structural analysis to assess how resilient the lighthouses are under extreme wave impacts.

One of the lighthouses STORMLAMP is investigating is Wolf Rock, which lies about 8 miles from Land’s End. The tower is built upon a rocky pinnacle which is completely obscured at high tide and was selected for long-term monitoring by STORMLAMP due to the unbroken Atlantic waves it encounters. It’s one of the larger towers in the project at 41m and was built in 1869. As with many of the lighthouses access is via helicopter, landing on the helideck at the top of the tower. Modal testing took place in 18 July 2016 and James Bassitt, based at University of Exeter took some fantastic footage from the helicopter flight to Wolf Rock.

A sequence of five images show tests conducted on the 1:40 scale model lighthouse.
Wave impact tests with the 1:40 scale model of Wolf Rock lighthouse in the COAST Laboratory at the University of Plymouth

As the four-year project comes to a close, a final workshop is planned for May 2020 to showcase the STORMLAMP research to a wider audience. The workshop will involve presentations on lighthouse research and relevant areas from academics, heritage professionals and industry stakeholders, as well as discussions on future directions for related research.

To find out more about the project and the lighthouses STORMLAMP has been working with, visit the  website. There are plenty more pictures of the team in action and details of our partners and of course the lighthouses themselves.

https://stormlamp.org.uk/ 

@stormlamp_edu

Excavating the Rooswijk … virtually!

The next blog in our British Science Week 2020 series come from MSDS Marine, a Marine and Coastal Contractor specialising in the management, execution and support of archaeological projects in the marine environment. 

The Rooswijk was a Dutch East India Company vessel which sank on the treacherous Goodwin Sands, off Kent, in January 1740. The ship was outward-bound for Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) with trade goods. The site is now protected by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. The ship’s remains are owned by the Dutch Government; however, the UK government is responsible for managing shipwrecks in British waters, therefore both countries work closely together to manage and protect the wreck site.

MSDS image 1
Figure 1. Clockwise from top left: Multibeam image showing the main area of wreckage on the Rooswijk, A diver excavating in 2018. Lead project Conservator Angela Middleton examining a concreted chest from the side. A screenshot of the Rooswijk virtual trail.

A two-year archaeological excavation project was undertaken between 2017 and 2018 due to the site being at high risk of loss through environmental changes and unauthorised diving. Wrecks such as the Rooswijk are part of the shared cultural maritime heritage across Europe and it’s important that cultural heritage agencies are able to work together to ensure that sites like this are protected, researched, understood and appreciated by all. The project involves an international team led by The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) in partnership with Historic England. MSDS Marine are the UK Project Managers for the project.

In 2019 MSDS Marine, working with ArtasMedia, created a virtual tour of the site: https://msdsmarine.com/projects/dive-trails/rooswijk-virtual-trail/. Now the projects archaeologists are working with the μ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre at the University of Southampton to further excavate the site virtually!

A number of stacks of coins were found during the excavation. Some of these were carefully separated by the conservators from the Investigative Science Team at Historic England (Figure 2). Some could not be separated.

MSDS 2
Figure 2. An MSDS Marine conservator separating coins from the Rooswijk in the Historic England laboratory.

A number of stacks were then sent to the μ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre (www.muvis.org) at the University of Southampton to be micro-CT scanned. X-ray micro-Computed Tomography (µ-CT) scanning is a volumetric scanning technique, which enables us to virtually cut open materials to look inside with micrometre spatial resolution, while preserving the condition of the object we are scanning. During the scan, the object is rotated 360 degrees as thousands of 2D X-ray projection images are acquired. These 2D images are then reconstructed into a three-dimensional volume, which is made up of cubic pixels with intensities related to the amount of x-ray energy absorbed at that point.

We used the custom walk-in scanner (the Hutch) at the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre to scan the concreted coins, which were stacked in sealed tubes to prevent excessive drying during the scanning process (Figure 3).

MSDS 3
Figure 3. Concreted coins mounted for µ-CT scanning within the custom Nikon/X-tek 450/225 kVp Hutch at the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre, University of Southampton

The digital reconstructed volumes were then sent to MSDS Marine, where myVGL software (Volume Graphics GmbH, Germany) was used to manipulate the volume data, so that the individual faces inside the stacks could be seen (Figure 4). These coin faces have not been seen since they were packed into chests for the voyage almost 280 years ago.

MSDS 4
Figure 4. A Rider coin from 1739 that has been virtually separated from a large coin stack.

The coin face slice images will be sent to Jan Pelsdonk, the projects numismatist, for identification and will contribute to the understanding of the wreck.

The application of scientific techniques like CT scanning and digital model processing have contributed hugely to the understanding of underwater heritage, and continue to offer new and exciting ways of investigating these important cultural sites.

Phoebe Ronn, MSDS Marine Phoebe@MSDSMarine.co.uk

www.MSDSMarine.co.uk

Katy Rankin, µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre, University of Southampton, k.rankin@soton.ac.uk

www.southampton.ac.uk/muvis

Unlocking the archive through scientific analysis: heritage science research at The National Archives

Author: Natalie Brown Senior Conservation Manger – Engagement

The purpose of the Collection Care Department at The National Archives is to ensure access to our collection through its long-term preservation and display. Through established and innovative programmes of environmental management, conservation treatment, and research initiatives we aim to prolong the life of our collection for future generations and enhance the artefactual value of archival collections beyond what is written on the page. As a department crouched in an Independent Research Organisation (IRO) we are able to co-create applied and interpretive heritage science projects that enable us to investigate the material composition and physical state of the collection, study how art materials were used throughout history, model how materials will degrade, and address changing conservation practices. Below are two projects highlighting how we do this in practice.

ArcHives

The aim of ArcHives is to use wax as a bimolecular archive to inform upon the geographic origin of beeswax (and bees); the changing diversity of the hive microbiome in modern; and historical beeswax and the DNA of individuals associated with the production of the legal documents trapped in kneaded wax. The National Archives holds over 250,000 seals dating from the 11th to the 20th Century and this project will allow us to explore our wax seal collection on a biomolecular level. We hope to gain knowledge around the material composition of wax seals in our collection which will allow for a deeper understanding of the physical and chemical processes responsible for their ageing and degradation. The four-year project is led by an international cross-disciplinary team of molecular biologists, palaeoproteomicists, heritage scientists, historians and chemists. Lora Angelova PhD, the Head of Conservation: Research and Engagement, is an advisor on this project.

A manuscript from 13th century with 56 wax seals attached.
Reference: DL 27/270. A document created in 1217-32 with 56 attached wax seals, housed at The National Archives. Image courtesy of The National Archives.

AI for DigiLab

AI for DigiLab aims to combine artificial intelligence and advanced imaging techniques to analyse historic map collections. The project is a collaboration between The National Archives, Nottingham Trent University – ISAAC group, Yale, Getty GCI, and University of Southern Maine- Osher Map Library. The National Archives holds around six million maps ranging from the 14th to 20th Century, some of which are hand-drawn and colourfully painted. Image techniques, such as x-ray fluorescence scanning or multispectral imaging, are useful to investigate the materials, such as pigments, inks and dyes, used by the mapmakers. In the project, algorithms will be used to analyse the large datasets produced from these imaging techniques to determine the materials present in the maps. We hope that by applying big data analysis to international historic map collections we can shed light on maps production context, the trade of the materials, and possible influences between the metropolis, the colonies and across media. Lucia Pereira-Pardo PhD, Senior Conservation Scientist is a co-investigator on this project.

Four variations on an image of a map of Ulster taken with multispectral imaging.
Multispectral imaging of a map of Ulster by Richard Bartlett (1603) with pigment and dye references taken by Lucia Pereira-Pardo. Image courtesy of The National Archives.

Identifying Lauder’s pigments using XRF

The latest blog post in our British Science Week 2020 series is written by Clara Gonzalez, a post graduate student studying for an MLitt in Technical Art History at the University of Glasgow. She is currently doing a work placement with the Conservation Department of the National Galleries of Scotland.

The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) and the Technical Art History Group, Glasgow University (TAHG) are working together on a systematic technical study of Christ Teacheth Humility by Robert Scott Lauder (1803-1869).

In 1847, Lauder submitted this painting to a competition organised to provide works of art for the Houses of Parliament. Lauder did not win, but the painting gained him public recognition. In 1849 it was acquired by NGS, becoming part of the early foundation of the collection.

The vivid palette used in the painting reveals Lauder’s interest in the effects of colour, inspired by Venetian 16th century painters such as Titian. At the time Lauder was working, traditional pigments were still in use, and artists experimented with pigments made from newly discovered compounds which were also commercially available.

A well-established analytical method for  the technical examination of paintings (specifically the identification of inorganic components of artists’ materials) is X-ray fluorescence (XRF). XRF is a non-destructive, non-invasive analytical tool. The TAHG XRF analyser is a portable, handheld Niton XL3t. This portability is particularly suitable for examination of this work due to its dimensions (2.5 x 3.7m) and offsite location in the gallery store. Using XRF, we will characterise inorganic elements present. In combination with other techniques (such as paint sampling) this analysis will be used to build a holistic picture of materials used, including pigments, and to gain an understanding of Lauder’s material choices for this painting, the most ambitious project of his career.

dav
XRF analyser during analysis 1.
bty
XRF analyser during analysis 2.
Person examining a small scanner mounted on a tripod, in front of a large painting.
Examining the XRF analyser in front of the painting.

Vanishing Heritage: Digital Documentation at Kilmartin Glen

This is the last blog post from Historic Environment Scotland in our current British Science Week 2020 series. 

Written by Bonnie (Nicole Burton) 

Since starting my Trainee position in August with Historic Environment Scotland, I have worked with the Digital Documentation team on various sites, ranging from Neolithic chambered cairns at Kilmartin Glen to Iron Age Brochs at the Isles of Lewis.

These projects were undertaken as part of the Rae Project, involving both the Digital Documentation and Digital Innovation team at the Engine Shed. The focus of the Rae Project is to digitally record all historic sites in Historic Environment Scotland’s care across Scotland, as well as their large array of collection items. The aim of this project is to have a full database for sites that are vulnerable or at-risk, using the datasets for management and monitoring.

The largest project I have been involved with was at Kilmartin Glen in August. The teams spent two weeks digitally documenting 15 sites and 30 collections items. Kilmartin Glen is located in Argyll and Bute, western Scotland and is enriched with prehistoric monuments and historical sites.

HES Digital 1
Laser scanning at Kilmartin Glen. © Historic Environment Scotland.

The documented sites range from chambered cairns, historic buildings, rock art, stone circles and stone artefacts. After the initial documentation had taken place the processing of the data had to be carried out using a wide range of software packages to create accurate 3D models that can be shared with the public [https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/cairnbaan-west-kilmartin-glen-7b63521779c440c19bd7079ba2d5842f].

Terrestrial laser scanning

Laser scanning is a straight forward process: the instrument has a rotating laser beam that reflects off a given surface, creating billions of points in 3D space representing the shape of a surface. Whilst scanning, multiple factors are needed to be taken into consideration, including the need for overlapping scans is to ensure a complete 3D model can be created, the terrain and environmental conditions. Our team uses a variety of laser scanners– some used for overview scans and others for the finer detail.

HES Digital 2
Using a laser scanning to digital document cup and ring marks at Achnabreck. © Historic Environment Scotland.

Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry is a technique of using a camera to take overlapping photographs ensuring all areas of the subject has been captured to create a 3D model. While simple in theory, the better the pictures, the better the model, so we make sure to use a colour checker and a good lens.

HES digital 3
Digital Innovation trainee Kieran Young using Photogrammetry at Achnabreck. © Historic Environment Scotland.

Heritage in Scotland is becoming more and more at risk due to increased flooding and the changing climate. The work our team is doing not only at Kilmartin Glen but on other sites like Skara Brae is aiding in the management and monitoring of significant cultural heritage.

If you use twitter and would like to keep up to date with our projects, then follow the #Raeproject and @Burton1495

The pannotype mystery: using science to research early photographic processes

This year we are again using the wonderful opportunity of British Science Week (6th – 15th March) to showcase brilliant examples of heritage science work being undertaken by NHSF members and across the sector more generally.  We will post new blogs throughout the coming week. 

To launch the series, we have a post written by Ioannis Vasallos, Conservator of photographs and paper at The National Archives, all about the analysis and conservation of rare photographic processes.

The National Archives has an estimate of eight million photographs in its collection. Some of the very early ones can be found on the Design Registers, which contain almost three million British patterns, products’ designs and trademarks from 1839 to 1990s (figure 1). As part of a larger project to understand, conserve and improve access to the Design Registers, Collection Care has been doing research and analysing some rare examples of early photographic processes found amongst them.

Pannotype is an early photographic process invented in 1850s, and used only for a short period of time till the 1880s. Photographs made with this process are rare in collections, and it is therefore exciting to have found 15 pannotypes in a bound volume of the Design Registers (figure 2). These photographs depict designs of ceramic houseware but many of them cannot be accessed due to their deteriorated image layer which has become tacky, and caused other designs to stick on them (figure 3).

A series of analytical techniques were performed in order to understand the composition of the image layer, as well as the rest of the materials that the photographs are made of. Elemental analysis was done with X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) and showed us the presence of silver particles (figure 4), which confirms the photographic nature of the image. Lead was also detected and seems related to the manufacturing of the cloth support that the pannotypes were placed on. Fourier Transform Infra-Red spectroscopy FTIR analysis identified a natural resin on the photographs whose image layer is degraded, and collodion on others whose image is not affected (figure 5). The analysis helped to combine literature review of historic photographic journals and photographic recipes in order to cross reference the materials that were identified. Finally, the newly acquired Multispectral Imaging system (MSI) was also used to enhance the visibility of the images on the pannotypes whose surface is covered by stuck pieces of paper (figure 6 & 7).

This will now inform the decision making for the conservation of the photographs whose image is degraded and have paper stuck on their surface. The information gained will also enhance the understanding of historic photographic practices helping to preserve similar photographs in other archives and collections.

To find out more about the work of Collection Care you can check the blog of The National Archives at https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/, or you can contact Ioannis Vasallos, Conservator of photographs and paper Ioannis.Vasallos@nationalarchives.gov.uk

NA figure 1
Figure 1: BT 43/67, an open page in a volume from the Design Registers. © The National Archives.
NA Figure 2
Figure 2: BT 43/67, pannotype depicting pottery. © The National Archives.
NA Figure 3
Figure 3: BT 43/67, Group of pannotypes with paper stuck on their surface. © The National Archives.
NA Figure 4
Figure 4: XRF analysis on a pannotype photograph. © The National Archives.
NA Figure 5
Figure 5: Conservation scientist, Lucia Pardo Pereira perform FTIR analysis on a pannotype photograph. © The National Archives.
NA Figure 6
Figure 6: BT 43/67/130678, true colour image captured with MSI. © The National Archives.
NA Figure 7
Figure 7: BT 43/67/130678, infrared reflected (IRR) image captured with MSI. © The National Archives.

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.

CF5DE936-9C07-42E3-8C84-1D856F67188A

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.

FE368A3B-948D-426E-AB68-CA13A72D486A

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!

C5B4158A-8274-45A8-992F-5F39D76A0CA0