The Heritage Science Hackathon was organised by a group of SEAHA students, led by Ida Ahmad, Rosie Brigham and Gavin Leong. Funding for this free event was generously provided by Trellis: Community Partnership Building Events and the Octagon Small Grants Fund.
The Heritage Science Hackathon took place from 18-19th May at UCL Here East in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. With a varied program of both hacking (problem-solving) and workshops (learning new skills), the event attracted over 40 attendees with a wide range of backgrounds including data science, architecture and business. The program featured challenges from two East London heritage partners, Thames Festival Trust (The Barking Stink) and Eastside Community Heritage (Hidden Histories Archive).
Challenges from Thames Festival Trust included:
How can we collect scent memories?
How can we map, communicate and archive smells?
The challenges from Eastside Community Heritage were:
How can we digitise, organise and open up our archives to the public?
How can we enhance and promote our exhibitions?
Background information on each of the projects was presented to attendees by Nikki Shaill from Thames Festival Trust and Judith Garfield from Eastside Community Heritage. This was followed by an ideas session and team formation. Some teams were formed by individuals meeting for the first time, while others were established teams who had signed up together.
Workshops related to the challenges gave attendees the opportunity to delve deeper into some of the scientific and technical aspects of heritage science. Workshop topics included: “Smell of Heritage” by Cecilia Bembibre; “Computer Vision in Heritage” by Giles Bergel; and “Introduction to Web Development” by Rosie Brigham.
At the end of the second day, teams were invited to pitch the solutions they had been working on to address the challenges posed by the heritage partners. In total eight pitches were made, addressing either one or both the sets of challenges. Pitches were judged on Innovation, Relevance and Practicality. The judging panel featured Michael Harris (Technical Lead at Royal Academy of Arts), May Cassar (Director of the Institute for Sustainable Heritage), Nikki Shaill and Judith Garfield.
Initially, two prizes were up for grabs, one for the best pitch for each heritage partner, with winning teams receiving Arduino kits for each member. These were awarded to teams SearchOral and KAD. SearchOral created a scalable and searchable database of transcripts, through which researchers could request access to Eastside Community Heritage oral archive. KAD created an innovative way to present heritage smells in their local context in East London. The judges were so impressed by the calibre of all the pitches that they decided to award a third prize to team Aurora, for their plan to create a lightweight device that captured the chemistry of a given smell in real time.
Join us on the 18-19th May for the first ever Heritage Science Hackathon at UCL Here East in Stratford. Participants will work in groups to think of new solutions to problems posed by participating institutions. As an added bonus, the winners of the hackathon have the option to apply for a further £10,000 develop their project and see it working within the community.
What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is a short period of time (in this case a weekend) in which domain level experts join together to work collaboratively on projects. It emerged from the tech community in which people would ‘hack’ together software. The goal of a hackathon is to come up with new solutions to old, well identified problems.
Do I need to code to attend?
No! This is a hackathon for everyone, specifically for heritage science professionals. It is not about creating fancy apps, but rather to think of solutions faced by small institutions.
In March 2019 I had the privilege to join the research team at Hellens and interview Justine Peberdy, General Manager at Hellens and Dr Josep Grau-Bove from the University College London.
Justine, could you tell us a little bit about Hellens’ history?
JP: Back in 1057, Earl Harold Godwinson was Lord of Much Marcle which included Hellens Manor. He lost his life shortly after in the battle of Hastings and the house came into the ownership of William the Conqueror. He gave it to his Standard Bearer Walter de Lacey who in turn leased it to French monks who then spent the next decades establishing the church and building a community here. Subsequent to that the house went through various families, partly because there was never a clear male heir that could inherit the house. It came into the Audley family sometime in the 13th century and Isolde, sister of Roger Mortimer married Hugh de Audley when Roger Mortimer was raising an army to unseat Richard II. As part of these events the royal seal was delivered to Hellens Manor to Isabela’s son Edward III, so the house has witnessed some key historic moments. Soon after that the house was recorded as being in ruins in about 1580, and its saving grace was a marriage into a nearby wealthy merchant family. Their daughter came here with a large dowry and much of the house as it stands now was renovated, changed and domesticated, changing it from a fortress on the Welsh boarder to a private house for entertaining. That happened in about 1641. After that there was again no clear line of heritage, which meant that when the houses ownership was in question it managed to avoid periods of renovation and change. So it has remained pretty unchanged since the 17th century.
The house has certainly lived through some very exciting times. It has recently changed from being used as a private home to being open to the public and as part of this change you have started working with the University College London. Could you tell us a bit more about this collaboration?
JP: The trusts remit is to preserve this house and make it available to the public, so the real concentrated learning about the house and keeping very organized archives is quite a recent thing that we started. Hellens is still used as a private home with live-in staff, so it is not like a national trust house that is preserved as a museum, it’s a living breathing house. There are all sorts of additions, either to the furniture or to the paintings or changes to the structure of the house. It’s really only recently that that is being documented and learned about, so we are very much in need of experts to come and look at the fabric of the house, look at the paintings and tell us how this incredible collection came together and how we can look after it in the best possible way.
JGB: We are very lucky to have a good relationship with the trust, especially Adam Munthe as well as Justine and the other members of staff. This helps us to tackle problems that are useful to them. Over the years we have done all sorts of research that helps their preservation management. From studying moisture in the walls, to looking at paintings, studying pest, the influence of light and all the agents of deterioration.
So the work UCL has done has already been beneficial?
JP: Yes, definitely. Primarily it teaches us how to look after what we have here. And it can be very simple measures such as keeping the curtains closed to protect paintings and surfaces from light or changing how we clean things. We have considerable expertise amongst our trustees, but most of the team living at Hellens are not experienced curators or conservators. So we are very fortunate to be working with UCL as their advice on how to best care for and protect Hellens is very valued. Every single recommendation that UCL gives us is acted on and we are very grateful their support.
JGB: The work we have been doing here has not only been beneficial to Hellens Manor but has also been a great experience for our students. They have the opportunity to work in a real historic environment, where their decisions and their research is going to have an impact into the preservation of the collection. In addition, they get to test experimental techniques a little bit outside of the comfort zone of these techniques. The students have to work in conditions that are not ideal, such as a controlled lab environment, and they have to learn how to get the best results regardless.
Kira Zumkley is a SEAHA MRes student researching advanced digitisation to support the conservation and interpretation of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. Studying at the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics at the University of Brighton and partnered with the Victoria and Albert museum, she will be investigating advanced digitisation technologies and methods to determine which are most suitable to document, care for and improve the understanding of the objects’ manufacturing and their condition.
Header feature: photograph of Hellens Manor by Kira Zumkley. Credit: Kira Zumkley | www.kirazumkley.com
We are pleased to announce that the 2019 SEAHA Heritage Science Conference will take place 1-3 April 2019 at the University of Oxford. We welcome researchers, academics and heritage professionals to join us in discussing the latest research and issues in cultural heritage conservation.
Delegates will learn from peers via workshops and practical sessions, and experienced academics and practitioners providing valuable insights throughout. In addition to a range of keynote talks and student presentations, this year will feature a range of special interest group led workshops, exploring:
Science in the built heritage environment; the interface between technology and historic structures
Heritage science on the landscape scale
Artificial Intelligence in heritage science; developing new approaches in an emerging field
The application of digital imaging techniques to better understand sites and artefacts
Innovative approaches to monitoring and managing collections and artefacts
In the last three years, over 400 delegates have attended the SEAHA conferences held in Oxford, Brighton, and London, with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Building on the past events, the upcoming conference will provide opportunities to network, learn, collaborate, and gain the insight that will help break down barriers and help push your research, conservation work, or site management further.
If you are an archaeology or heritage professional who works with, or are interested in the uses of scientific investigation in the field, then this is an event not to be missed.
This conference is organised and run by staff and research students at SEAHA, a centre for Doctoral Training funded by the EPSRC which hosts research projects at the University of Brighton, University College London, and the University of Oxford, in the field of Heritage Science.
Save the date and watch this space for further information!
If you have any questions about the event, please get in touch.
ARIM (Assessment Reconstruction Information Modelling): A BIM procedure to prevent and reconstruct earthquakes’ damages – Prof. Tommaso Empler and PhD student Adriana Caldarone, from Sapienza University of Rome.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) studies in the Forum of Nerva, Imperial Fora of Rome
The Department of History, Representation and Restoration of Architecture, Sapienza University of Rome, with a research unit called “Urban Seismic Risk: Prevention and Reconstruction”, since 2016 is investigating a double BIM (Building Information Modelling) path connected to natural disasters: prevention and reconstruction. The focus is to investigate how small towns (villages) – made up of vernacular buildings – can join a BIM procedure. We are no longer speaking of HBIM (Historic Building Information Modelling), but of ARIM (Assessment Reconstruction Information Modeling). The main topic is linked to “data fusion”, where interdisciplinary skills meet up, ranging from historical sector, to surveying, urban planning, restoration, structures and design. How should data be organised? What are the local regulations? Where – and how – research and the professional world meet each other? These are the topics of a seminar where different cultures and different research fields can be compared to find some common denominators.
The Nervar App, reconstruction of the Imperial Fora of Rome
Prof. Tommaso Empler and PhD student Adriana Caldarone work in the Department of History, Representation and Restoration of Architecture (Italian acronym DSDRA) in the Architecture faculty of Sapienza University of Rome. The Department of History, Representation and Restoration of Architecture (Italian acronym DSDRA) was established on July 1, 2010 following a structural reorganisation of “Sapienza University of Rome”. Research objectives of the Department focus on: History of Architecture, including the study of historiographic theories and methods, single historical buildings, cities, smaller towns and landscape; Drawing, including representation methods, the history of representation, the latest architectural and territorial representation and survey techniques, graphics, and design; Restoration, including theories and methods of conservative restoration, the elaboration of conservation and restoration projects, the consolidation of surfaces, and structural consolidation.
Interdisciplinary researches topics are ICT, Seismic Risk, BIM-HBIM-ARIM.
Book your place here.
Header image: the ARIM procedure applied to the town of Grisciano (Accumoli). Grisciano is one of the towns that have been heavily damaged by the 2016 earthquake that hit Central Italy.
Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts Heritage and Archaeology