Annual Invited Lecture

Abstracts and biographies from past Heritage Science Group lectures

Psyche on a smartphone: shining new light on a Florentine Renaissance masterpiece​

Dr Paola Ricciardi - 1st July 2020

Paola Ricciardi

Abstract: INSPIRE2020 (December 2019 - March 2020) was the first exhibition of work made by primary school children at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The exhibition resulted from a year-long project modelled on the National Gallery’s Take One Picture, which focused on the painting of Cupid and Psyche by Jacopo del Sellaio as a source of inspiration for creative cross-curricular enquiry on the part of teachers and pupils alike. Inspired by the children’s engagement with the artist’s materials and techniques, conservators and heritage scientists undertook their own technical research on the panel. Their work was integrated in the exhibition display and in a newly-developed AR app. This talk discussed the role played by Heritage Science in the INSPIRE project, as well as the range of opportunities that truly cross-disciplinary collaboration offers for meaningful, creative engagement of the Heritage Science community with teachers, schoolchildren and museum visitors.

Biographical statement: Dr Paola Ricciardi is the Fitzwilliam Museum's Senior Research Scientist. She is responsible for the scientific aspects of the MINIARE research project, which uses a cross-disciplinary approach to study medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. She is also engaged in research on other types of objects such as medieval polychrome wood sculptures, early Modern portrait miniatures, and 18th century ceramics and glass. Paola has co-authored over 30 refereed papers and book chapters, and recently finished co-editing the two-volume proceedings of the ‘Manuscripts in the Making: Art and Science’ conference (Cambridge, 2016). She has lectured widely at scholarly conferences and study days, and given numerous public talks for general audiences in Cambridge. She holds a PhD in Cultural Heritage Science from the University of Florence (2008) and a Master’s Degree in Physics from the University of Rome (2003). Before joining the Fitzwilliam Museum in October 2011, she spent three years at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC as the Samuel H. Kress post-doctoral Fellow in Imaging Science.

From Industry to Heritage: An Engineer's Perspective

Nicola Grahamslaw - 26th June 2019

Nicola Grahamslaw

Abstract: What do a Victorian Steamship and a Nuclear Reactor have in common? In this talk Nicola Grahamslaw will explore how ideas and experience from across a variety of engineering disciplines can be applied to the conservation of industrial heritage, using the UK's Advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) fleet and Brunel's 175-year-old iron steamship as a case study. She will share her experience transitioning from industry into heritage, and the insight gained from her recent work understanding and modifying climate control systems to improve their effectiveness and reduce carbon footprint.

Biographical statement: Nicola is a chartered mechanical engineer, working as a design analyst and project engineer in the aerospace and nuclear power industries prior to her recent move into the heritage sector. In 2018, she was appointed to the newly created "Ship's Conservation Engineer" post at the SS Great Britain in Bristol. Here, she is reviewing the effectiveness of the ship's current conservation strategy, put in place in 2005, and planning for the future care of this unique object.

The plus/minus dilemma – sustainable indoor environmental management in museums, libraries and archives

Professor Roman Kozlowski - 27th June 2018

Professor Roman Kozlowski

Abstract: Managing indoor environments in museums, libraries and archives in a responsible manner has been much debated in the last decade.  But not only debated. Numerous national and international projects were conducted to establish a realistic range of allowable climatic variations for heritage objects susceptible to physical damage. Time-dependent analysis of the response of objects to variations in microclimate parameters has been increasingly supported by direct tracing of damage progress. Acoustic and optical methods have been used for an objective assessment of safety of objects in their real-world environments. This talk will explore how the available fundamental knowledge is exploited in the conservation practice also by the development of on-line environmental data analysis software tools in a collaborative effort of several institutions. Energy consumption in specific buildings housing collections will be assessed for different indoor climate control scenarios and systems. Case studies of libraries and museums will be examined to demonstrate complexities of indoor environmental management as well as possible solutions.  

Biographical statement: Roman Kozłowski, a chemist by profession, is professor and head of cultural heritage research group at the Jerzy Haber Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow. He is a Fellow of the International Institute of Conservation, a member of the ICOM-CC preventive conservation group and sits on the European Committee for Standardization CEN TC346 WG 7 ‘Specifying and measuring outdoor/indoor climate’. He has taken part in research projects in Poland and internationally, his recent investigations include energy efficiency of museums and libraries and development of software for quantitative assessment of risk of physical damage of cultural objects. Roman has published on monitoring environment in museums and historic buildings, composition and structure of historic materials and their response to changes in environmental parameters, non-invasive monitoring and modeling of stresses and strains induced in cultural objects by impact of environmental factors.

Advanced Materials Characterisation in Heritage Research​

Professor Mary Ryan - 5th July 2017

Professor Mary Ryan

Abstract: Modern materials science has a vast array of advanced techniques capable of multimodal characterisation of systems; across a range of length-scales, and in a range of environments.  We now have the ability to probe materials at ambient pressure and under controlled heating or loading (for example); acquiring morphological, chemical and mechanical information. These approaches are providing new insights into materials behaviour and allowing mechanistic understanding of degradation mechanisms to be developed.  There are numerous common challenges between materials and conservation science, and across the range of materials systems.  In this talk I will present some aspects of our work from collaborative projects with the Science Museum (fabric) the RAF Museum (metal) the V&A (polymers) and the Mary Rose Trust (wood). I will also discuss where the projects intersect with ‘non-conservation’ areas to highlight some of the added benefits of working across sectors. 

Biographical statement: Mary Ryan is Professor of Materials Science and Nanotechnology at Imperial College London, UK, and the Royal Academy of Engineering-Shell Research Chair for Interfacial Nanoscience.  Mary’s current research is in the area of applied electrochemistry and materials degradation, with a focus on the formation and behaviour of nanostructured systems, the role of dissolution in toxicity, optimization of nanomaterials for energy devices and the development of in-situ techniques to study interfacial reactions. Mary joined Imperial College in 1998 after spending three years at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, USA, first as a postdoctoral researcher and then as staff scientist. She has PhD in Materials and BSc in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Manchester. She is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Institute of Materials, Mining and Minerals, a Trustee of the National Heritage Science Forum, a member of the Research Board of the RAF Museum, and a member of the Strategic Advisory Network of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Current Scientific Research at the British Museum

Professor Carl Heron - 8th July 2016

Professor Carl Heron

Abstract: There is a long and distinguished history of scientific research at the British Museum. In 2014 the department moved into new facilities in the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre. This presentation will highlight current research activity across the museum collections and signal some of the new directions, in particular, the prospects for bioarchaeology. This activity is funded by the Wellcome Trust with the strategic aim of enhancing research into organic artefacts, remains and residues in the museum collection deploying state-of-the-art molecular and isotopic techniques.

Biographical statement: Carl Heron is Director of Scientific Research at the British Museum. He took up the post in 2016 after spending most of his career at the University of Bradford. He was head of the Department of Archaeological Sciences from 1999-2001 and 2010-2014, and Dean of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences from 2001-2006. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeological Sciences, also from Bradford, a PhD from University College, Cardiff and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Liverpool.