Smashing stereotypes – Dr Lisa Briggs

Following on from our blog about how heritage scientists are smashing stereotypes, we are delighted to introduce you to Dr Lisa Briggs, an underwater archaeologist and archaeological scientist at The British Museum. In this blog, she details her career:

For many years I was an underwater archaeologist working on shipwrecks. Armed with an undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Ancient History from the University of Edinburgh, I worked on every project I could, both on land and underwater, but began to specialise in shipwreck sites around the world. When the archaeological excavations I worked on uncovered artefacts of special interest, some were selected to be ‘samples’ destined for the ‘lab.’ The laboratory seemed like a mysterious place where, through spider webs and magic, incredible results and discoveries were achieved that allowed us to learn so much more about the artefacts we had uncovered. After 10 years of wondering what actually happened in these mysterious laboratories, I decided to return to school and have now completed an MPhil in Archaeological Science (Cambridge) and DPhil (PhD) in Archaeological Science (Oxford).  I wish someone had told me earlier how much fun science can be!

My PhD work used DNA and organic residue analysis to study five shipwreck sites in the Mediterranean including finds from the Uluburun, Cape Gelidonya, and Kyrenia shipwrecks. Working on these artefacts was a dream come true. I now work in the Scientific Research Department of the British Museum where I use organic residue analysis to study pottery artefacts from a variety of sites. My favourite thing about my work is being intimately involved in the entire process. My background in archaeology allows me to visit sites and sample in-situ artefacts myself, before exporting these samples to our labs at the British Museum.  This way, I can see exactly how the samples were selected, recovered, handled, stored, and analysed. For example, sunscreen is a common contaminant detected in pottery from archaeological sites in sunny countries because after applying sunscreen archaeologists will sometimes touch the pottery with bare hands when digging it up. When I am allowed to sample artefacts myself I wear powder-free nitrile gloves while digging, sterilise my sampling tools between artefacts, and store the samples in sterilised glass containers while they are awaiting export back to the UK. This way we can eliminate issues of contamination, from the loess to the lab!

My career path may not be the most common one for a heritage scientist, but I think I background in archaeology has allowed me to contextualise the artefacts that I study. In my spare time I enjoy speaking at events that encourage kids, especially girls, to get into STEM subjects by showing them how exciting science can be. At the same time, I advocate for the humanities by showing why archaeology and ancient history are so important for our understanding of what makes us human. Archaeology, I dig it!

Lisa is on Twitter and Instagram as @lisaarchaeology

British Science Week 2022 – Smashing Stereotypes

British Science week are celebrating the diverse people and careers in science and engineering by encouraging STEM employees and researchers to share stories on social media about their day-to day work using #SmashingStereotypes and tagging @ScienceWeekUK. They want to showcase diverse and inspiring teams/individuals in STEM and are choosing some to highlight on their website. You can read those added so far here.

We are encouraging heritage scientists to use this opportunity to share their stories in order to make the field of heritage science more visible. For inspiration, you could read through our collated series of profiles of heritage scientists in training. The profiles highlight the various roles within heritage science and the multitude of way that individuals in the field start out their careers.

We have already had some fantastic examples of #SmashingSteroetyoes shared with us by members. The British Museum is showcasing each day the work of different members of their Scientific Research team. Follow @AntonyPSimpson to find out about roles including Colour Scientist, Underwater Archaeologist and X-ray Imaging Specialist. Some of the tweets are summarised below:

The National Galleries of Scotland has also shared with us a short film celebrating the bravery and dedication of Dr Elsie Inglis (1864 – 1917) who was a physician, surgeon, humanitarian, feminist, and pioneer of medical education for women. You can watch the film here.

If you do share your career stories for British Science Week 2022, please be sure to tag us (@HertSci_UK) and we will share them too.  We hope to help better highlight the wide variety of careers in heritage science and the inspiring ways that heritage scientists are smashing stereotypes.

British Science Week 2022 – Heritage Science in schools

This year, British Science Week has developed activity packs on the theme of ‘Growth’. There are packs for primary schools, secondary schools and communities; all of which include engaging activities that explore all sorts of growth, including buildings, eco-friendly behaviours, animals and even how we can grow plants on Mars! You can access the 2022 resources here, as well as activity packs from previous British Science Weeks.  

Other organisations who have been inspired to create their own educational resources for British Science Week include:

BBC Teach Resources

They have created a web page that hosts their best science, technology, engineering and maths resources for primary and secondary schools all in one place.

STEM Learning

They have created additional resources to support the ‘Growth’ theme, including on plant growth, animal growth and population growth.

Twinkl

Twinkl create educational resources used by teachers, schools and educators across the world. This year, they have developed resources that support another theme of British Science Week 2022- smashing stereotypes! The KS1 and KS2 resources have been designed to help young learners think differently about what is means to be a scientist.  They have also embedded British Science Week learning into their new app which uses Augmented Reality (AR).

STEM at Derby

The University of Derby is hosting STEM subject workshops that will support the British Science Week theme of ‘growth’. They will give students the opportunity to explore facilities, take on STEM challenges and discover career pathways.

Science Discovery Day

University of St Andrews’ annual #ScienceDiscoveryDay will take place online on 19 March. Follow @StAndEngaged as they publish different fun and educational STEM related activities and videos every 15 minutes.

Heritage Science in schools

Our community working group has identified increasing engagement with heritage science at school age as a key outcome for a future skilled and diverse heritage science community. They have been collecting examples of how heritage science is being used in a range of programmes targeted at school-age children. You can read the examples here, some of which include:  

  • The use of 3-D digital documentation of the three Forth Bridges to create a series of teaching packs
  • An activity pack from The National Archives to showcase the heritage science and conservation research happening in their Collection Care department
  • Heritage Science resources created by University of Cambridge Museums to help students develop research skills during A-Levels

Do you know of any other examples? Please let us know at coordinator@heritagescienceforum.org.uk

In the future, we want to map existing resources to the national curriculum and work in partnership with others to fill gaps where heritage science can make a contribution to the curriculum. British Science Week 2022 provides a starting point for our members to help with this. Many schools have been calling for speakers to take part in their events during the week, with the hope of making pupils aware of the variety of careers available in science. 

We would encourage members to think about volunteering to speak at such events in the future. There are many schemes that facilitate collaborations between schools and scientists, including:

A good example of this programme in action can be seen in this lecture recorded in February: STEM lecture for schools – Climate change: putting the dead to work  Jess McCoy (STEM Ambassador and PhD candidate at Northumbria University) gave a talk that explored the link between Palynology and climate change. It was organised by Denbigh School in Milton Keynes.

This initiative is an online, student-led STEM enrichment activity. It connects school students with scientists through energetic real-time text-based chats.

Such schemes provide an excellent opportunity for heritage scientists to make school-age children aware of the role of heritage science in society and the variety of careers available within the sector. This would tie into our strategic objective of creating a future skilled and diverse heritage science community.

You can learn more about British Science Week 2022 here.

British Science Week 2022 – events relevant to Heritage Science

British Science Week 2022 is taking place this year between 11-20 March. It will be a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths with many events and activities taking place across the UK.

Below we have created a list of events that we think might be of interest to our members. In particular, we have rounded up events that align to the five societal challenges that were identified by our research working group to inspire and encourage connections between heritage science research and five issues of importance to society. They are Sustainable development; Climate emergency; Improved wellbeing; Equality and inclusivity; and Digital society. Events include:

Natural Prosperity and the Wellbeing Economy

Tuesday 24 May, 6-7 pm

This lecture from Gresham College will take place online and in person. It will envision a more equitable future where wellbeing and nature-based solutions take the place of growth at any cost.

Low and Zero-Carbon Energy Sources for Sustainable Buildings

Thursday 17 March, 12 -1 pm

This online talk will explore the two main pillars for saving energy in buildings – increasing energy efficiency and using low-zero-carbon energy sources.

Climate Change Adaptation and Green Infrastructure: Back to the Future

Monday 14 March, 12:30 – 1:30 pm

This online lecture, given by Dr Tony Harris from the University of South Wales, will explore how Green Infrastructure can deliver huge benefits to mitigate and adapt to climate change, for quality of life and for environmental benefits including natural flood management solutions.

Makeactive: an exploration of how a multimodal virtual maker space could assist non-sighted designer makers.

Tuesday 15 March, 12:30 – 1:30 pm

This online session from The Open University will explore the barriers for non-sighted and sight impaired practitioners to gaining equal access to digital skills. It will detail how the Makeactive-UK project is working to enable non-sighted and sight impaired users to work alongside their sighted peers to enable collaboration in the virtual world.

There are also events happening that are not directly related to the societal challenges but are still relevant and helpful to heritage scientists. These include:

Science Writing Course

Saturday 23 April, 10 am – 4pm

This online workshop will be particularly helpful to heritage science students and ECRs. It will share practical tips to develop a career in science writing.

British Science Festival 2022

Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 September

The British Science Association and De Montfort University will host the Festival across the city of Leicester. Events will shine a light on cutting-edge science, as well as the more practical impacts research and innovation have on people’s daily lives.

Stonehenge Science at the British Museum

18 March

This family activity is inspired by the ground-breaking research in The World of Stonehenge exhibition and will help curious little minds to have a go at looking, listening, investigating, problem solving and creating – just like a museum scientist.

You can find out more information about British Science Week 2022 here.

HEAD HUNTING IN THE HIGHLANDS – Using archaeological science to understand extraordinary medieval burials from St Colman’s Church, Portmahomack, Tarbatness, Highlands

The next post in our British Science Week 2020 series is about a project supported by funding from Historic Environment Scotland, a NHSF member. 

Written by Cecily Spall, FAS Heritage

Image 1 - 3-D scans - credit Visualising Heritage, UoB
Image 1: 3-D colours scans of the skull of Chieftain A (right) showing blade cut and Chieftain B (Credit: Visualising Heritage, University of Bradford)

Image 2 - Chieftain A and skulls - credit FAS Heritage
Image 2: Chieftain A with the four extra skulls set at his head (Credit: FAS Heritage)

Image 3 - Chieftain B reconstruction - credit FaceLab LJMU
Image 3: 2-D computer-based facial reconstruction of Chieftain B (Credit: FaceLab, Liverpool John Moores University)

The Tarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack, opened in 1999 in the former medieval church of St Colman.  It displays the results of 20 years of archaeological research excavation focussed around this important church.  Along with National Museums Scotland, the Centre cares for the collection of burials, dating from the 7th to the 16th century, excavated from in and around the church building.

St Colman’s Church was built in the 12th century in the abandoned burial ground of an 8th-century Pictish monastery. Burials continued from the 13th to the 16th century. Over 80 medieval burials were excavated and include a small group of burials which were highly unusual, displaying burial rites never before seen.  The central burial was that of an older man – ‘Chieftain A’ – who had died aged 46 to 59 years from a horrendous facial injury caused by a blade (Image 1). On his death he was interred in a large coffin which included four extra skulls set at his head (Image 2). About a generation later his grave was reopened and the body of a second man – ‘Chieftain B’ – was laid on top with the skulls now set around his head.

A Historic Environment Scotland funded programme of archaeological scientific analysis is now underway, designed to better understand these extraordinary burials. This includes radiocarbon dating and ‘Bayesian’ (statistical) modelling of the dating brackets to refine them. The results suggest that Chieftain A died between AD1290 and 1410 and Chieftain B between AD 1380 and 1450; three of the skulls buried with them died between AD1250 and 1400 and the fourth belonged to a Pictish monk who died between AD770 and 900. These extraordinary burials belong to the period when the clan system was becoming established and so represents an important part of understanding Highland heritage and the history of the community of Portmahomack.

Multi-isotope analysis measuring strontium and oxygen preserved in tooth enamel has also provided information on region of birth with Chieftain A having grown up on or around the Tarbatness peninsula, and Chieftain B growing up elsewhere, perhaps in the Western or Northern Isles, moving to Portmahomack later in life.

Computer-based reconstruction of the face of Chieftain B has been undertaken using European datasets to model his likely appearance (Image 3), work which was generously funded by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Ancient DNA analysis is also underway at Harvard University and it is hoped that it will provide information on possible family connections between the burials, as well as likely skin tone, and eye and hair colour, and perhaps even his deeper shared ancestry.

The Tarbat Discovery Centre is currently hosting a temporary exhibition on the burials project. For more information visit: http://www.tarbat-discovery.co.uk.

Traineeship in Heritage Science at Historic Environment Scotland

The latest blog in our British Science Week 2020 is written by Meghan Godley.

This is the first in a series of blogs which we will post over the next few days from Historic Environment Scotland, each of which will showcase the work of a different department. 

My background is in geology having just graduated from my master’s geoscience degree. My research looked at the geochemistry and petrology of the Ross of Mull granites, which is one area of geology that I have a very strong inclining towards. On completion of my degree I was interested in expanding my laboratory skills in a whole new sector. I always had a passion with history and heritage, so this was the perfect mix while I can still progress my learning.

The conservation science traineeship provides an excellent opportunity of experience and training in a range of materials testing and different analytical techniques, targeted towards understanding the behaviour of building materials regarding future conservation challenges, including the threats of climate change. One issue that we face when conserving our traditional buildings concerns the sourcing and replacement of historic roofing slate.

By using a piece of equipment known as a chromameter we were able to quantify the colour of different historic slates and use this information to help identify the original source region of the slates and the most appropriate replacement slates to be used.

HES blog 1 image 1
Image 1. Left; Chromameter analysis on a slate in the laboratory. Top Left; roofing slate from Stirling Castle Top Right, slate from Aberfoyle quarry Bottom right; Graph showing the results of analysis, highlighting the diversity of their colour in Scotland. Images © Historic Environment Scotland. 

By undertaking scientific analysis of traditional building materials and conducting on-site condition monitoring, the conservation science team supports the making of informed conservation decisions in order to protect HES’s properties in care.

One technique we use is X-ray Diffraction (XRD) analysis, which uses X-rays to determine the minerals present in a material. This technique was used to understand the composition of repair material to a window in the King’s Old Building’s at Stirling Castle. We identified that the material was made from a lime putty and contained several layers of paint, which contained white lead. Health and safety precautions were then put in place to ensure the safe removal of the material.

Having studied geology at university, I never thought that I’d ever be analysing the composition of glass! Recently Dr Maureen Young and I were asked to analyse some glass window panes from Edinburgh Castle to help determine their age. By using a technique called X-ray Florescence (XRF) we can measure the chemical composition of the glass. By identifying specific elements within the material, we can help date the glass, according to the changing manufacturing processes used in Scotland. The panes dated to post 1930’s, indicating the glass had been replaced during repairs to the windows recorded at this time.

HES Blog 1 Image 2
Image 2. Dr Maureen Young using portable XRF on the glass at Edinburgh Castle. Image © Historic Environment Scotland. 

By utilising these newly learnt skills, I’m now conducting my own research project concerning the characterisation and potential climate-change impacts on the Achnabreck rock carvings in Argyll. This site provides some of the best examples of prehistoric rock art in Scotland. By better understanding the composition of the geology at these sites, we can help mitigate the risk to the threats of climate change and help preserve their conditions for future generations.

HES Blog 1 Image 3
Image 3. Image of Achnabreck rock carvings site that is to be analysed. Image © Historic Environment Scotland. 

 

British Science Week 2020: Heritage Science Events

In our second blog post for British Science Week 2020, find out about some of the very exciting heritage science events that are taking place over the next week…

Zoom-In: a closer look at science, British Museum, London

The British museum are offering you the chance to discover how their scientists and conservators unlock the secrets behind the Museum’s collections. The event will mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of a research laboratory at the Museum. As part of celebrations, you will learn about the different techniques that are currently used to monitor and preserve collections and observe the latest technology.  You will also have the opportunity to handle different kinds of raw materials.

Events will be taking place in the Museum’s Great Court all day on Saturday 14th March. Just drop by; there is no need to book beforehand. More details can be found here.

Taking place Thursday 12 March, 9 am- 5 pm. You can book your ticket here.

British Science Week at the Mary Rose, Portsmouth

The Mary Rose Trust has partnered with Zeiss Microscopy to offer visitors an insight into the science used to preserve its collection. You will have the opportunity to see the objects in more detail than ever before and to hear from experts.

Taking place Friday 13- Sunday 15 March. More information available here.

Attend a talk on Bristol’s link with the history of photography and take part in a selection of light and time based experiments, including seeing how the world would appear without a brain. There will also be the opportunity to watch sensitive silver salts become black and white images in a photographic Darkroom.

Events taking place on Saturday 14 March, 1-4 pm. More information here.

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.

Cleaning Modern Oil Paints Project

Tate is the newest recipient of the NHSF Gold Open Access grant for the publication of heritage science research. The grant enabled the publication of the research paper Scientific investigation into the water sensitivity of twentieth century oil paints’, available for free in Microchemical Journal. In this guest post, the paper’s authors tell us more about the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project.

The Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project (CMOP) is a collaborative European research project, funded through the JPI Heritage Plus programme, which runs from June 2015 – May 2018. The project aims to investigate conservation challenges associated with twentieth and twenty-first century oil paintings in order to ensure that modern oil paintings continue to be fit for display for future generations.

Many unvarnished twentieth and twenty-first century oil paintings are exhibiting unusual water sensitivity. Water sensitivity can be defined as the unwanted removal of pigment and/or original material when a discrete cleaning test is carried out using a dampened cotton swab on the surface of a painting. Water sensitivity is not restricted to a particular oil-paint brand, or artist, and affects a broad range of paintings.

1949_3_Normal_4L
Winsor & Newton Artist Oil Colour swatches that were studied as part of the microchemical journal paper. Copyright Tate.

Water sensitivity is problematic for conservators, since many of the well-established methods for removing surface dirt (which naturally gathers over time) involves the skilled application of water based cleaning systems.  Since dry-cleaning methods, for example using dry brushes or specialist sponges, are not always particularly effective at removing soiling, water sensitivity can complicate or even prevent effective treatment. This is problematic as accumulated surface dirt can change the appearance of paintings e.g. through altering the saturation, intensity and gloss of paint passages, and can, over the longer term, contribute to other unwanted side-effects relating to ageing and deterioration.

The interdisciplinary CMOP team have been investigating the underlying causes of water sensitivity in modern oil paints. This information has been used to inform the systematic testing and evaluation of selected cleaning systems for use on water sensitive modern oil paintings, with the aim of informing conservators about the risks involved and how to minimise them.

Part of the CMOP research has involved the chemical analysis of a series of naturally aged modern oil paint micro-samples, taken from case study oil paintings and from historic Winsor & Newton (W&N) artists’ oil paint swatches.  The W&N paint swatches were originally produced by the manufacturer for quality control testing, and were subsequently donated to Tate by ColArt UK for research purposes.

W&W Artist Oil Colour swatches studied for the paper, shown in tungsten light (left) and UV light (right). Copyright Tate.

We are pleased to announce that the National Heritage Science Forum has kindly sponsored the Gold Open Access publication of a key CMOP research paper, entitled Scientific investigation into the water sensitivity of twentieth century oil paints, now published in the peer-reviewed Microchemical Journal. This describes an in-depth investigation into the chemical characteristics of water sensitive paint passages, and likely causal factors.

The research at Tate is led by Principal Conservation Scientist Dr Bronwyn Ormsby, with Post-doctoral Researcher Judith Lee, and with the support of Tate’s Collection Care Research. More information on the project and details of the key CMOP project dissemination event; Conference on Modern Oil Paints taking place on 23-25 May 2018, are available on Tate’s website.

Detail 2
Detail of a case study oil painting analysed as part of the project. Copyright Tate.


 

The paper Scientific investigation into the water sensitivity of twentieth century oil paints is co-authored by Judith Lee and Bronwyn Ormsby of the Tate Conservation Department, Ilaria Bonaduce, Francesca Modugno, Jacopo La Nasa and Klaas Jan van den Berg.

The National Heritage Science Forum provides Gold Open Access grants to help to open up access to heritage science research. This funding is available to employees, students and members of our member organisations – find out more.

Polychromy Revealed: from medieval wood craftsmanship to 3D printing (Paola Ricciardi)

The next post in our British Science Week 2018 series is by guest writer Paola Ricciardi. Paola Ricciardi is the Research Scientist at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. She specialises in the non-invasive analysis of polychromy (multi-coloured painting) in cultural heritage objects. In this blog, Paola talks about a workshop on digital imaging, modelling, making and interpretation of 3D cultural heritage objects and their replicas.

The Fitzwilliam Museum holds a small but exceptional collection of medieval wood sculptures, largely polychrome, made across Western Europe c.1300-1550. For the most part extremely fragile, most of the sculptures have never been exhibited and are largely unknown to the public and to academics. Following a 10-month pilot project in 2017, we are currently running a series of activities funded by the Arts and Humanities Impact Fund of the University of Cambridge. These activities are aimed at maximising the impact of the pilot and at defining routes to impact for a large-scale research project – POLYCHROMY REVEALED – which will enable us to investigate, interpret, conserve and display the collection, ultimately transforming it into a resource that can be utilised for teaching, research and public engagement.

Picture of pair of kneeling angels. Copyright Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Pair of Kneeling Angels, Northern Italy?, 15th Century. Image copyright – The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Three events, running in March-May 2018, are particularly aimed at opening a dialogue with scholars, NGOs, industrial partners and crafts/technology practitioners interested in three-dimensional digital modelling; making; interpretation of; and interaction with, cultural heritage objects and their replicas. We want to assess the state-of-the-art of research in these fields and to establish guidelines for the choice of suitable and affordable solutions, which can then be shared with other museums and cultural institutions. Museum audiences are also involved and will be asked to respond to/interact with the outcomes of the initial phase of activities, in order to inform our methodology and choices for the large-scale project.

The real potential of ever-improving 3D visualisation and ‘making’ technologies is still to be fully explored and as such it is the focus of much attention, as demonstrated for example by a well-attended two-day conference recently held at the British Museum and by the ReACH project, led by the V&A Museum. On 15 March, we ran a half-day workshop in collaboration with the University’s Digital Humanities Network. The workshop brought together experts in a range of topics related to the study of, and interaction with, three-dimensional museum objects, such as 3D sensing, digital modelling, digital and physical making, as well as interpretation and outreach. Speakers and participants discussed the various ways in which digital 3D methods can support and enhance our study and the public’s perception of three-dimensional objects.

Image of panel of speakers. Copyright The Fitzwilliam Museum
Panel speakers. From left to right: Steven Dey, Anais Aguerre, Jonathan Beck and Panel Chair, David Saunders. Image copyright – The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Workshop participants were given a demonstration of a structured light scanner which was used to produce models of a selection of polychrome wooden sculptures in the Fitzwilliam Museum collection. They were then asked to work in groups and issue a ‘creative challenge’ to design and produce objects inspired by the original medieval sculptures, based on the 3D models.

Image of Jonathan Beck using a structure light scanner to produce a 3D model of a medieval sculpture. Copyright The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Jonathan Beck using a structured light scanner to produce a 3D model of a medieval sculpture. Image copyright The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The challenge will soon be advertised to members of Cambridge’s Community Workshop MakeSpace and more broadly, and will result in their creations being displayed during a late-night opening of the Fitzwilliam Museum in May. We hope people will feel inspired by the creative challenge and we are very curious to see what they will create!

Image of working together to issue a creative challenge. Copyright The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Working together to issue a creative challenge. Image copyright The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Find out more about the Polychromy Revealed project

The Fitzwilliam Museum houses the principal collections of art and antiquities of the University of Cambridge, and holds over half a million objects in its care. It leads the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM), a consortium of the eight University Museums and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, which works in partnership with other Cambridge University collections as well as with museums regionally, nationally and internationally. The University’s collections are a world-class resource for researchers, students and members of the public representing the country’s highest concentration of internationally important collections, all within walking distance of the City Centre. Arts Council England has awarded UCM National Portfolio Organisation status from 2018-2022.