Tag Archives: featured


SEAHA Mobile Heritage Lab visits the British Science Festival 2017

The SEAHA Mobile Heritage Lab (MHL) was in Brighton on the 9th September, as part of the British Science Festival. The British Science Festival is an annual event hosted by the British Science Association (BSA). The aim of Europe’s longest standing science festival is to engage members of the public with the work of scientists, engineers, technologists and social scientists from around the UK.

This year’s event, co-hosted by the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton, was held from the 5th to the 9th September.

With the Mobile Heritage Lab parked in the pedestrianised New Road (Brighton), members of the public had the chance to go inside and try out a selection of scientific instruments used in Heritage Science.

Inside the lab, our 3D microscope and UV torch proved particularly popular with science festival-goers. The 3D microscope allows for the rapid capture of images, measurement and creation of 3D models of objects. The large screen attached to the microscope displayed, in startling detail, the microscopic features of dozens of samples offered by the public throughout the day – everything from items of clothing, to jewelry to bank notes.

The Cultural Informatics Group (University of Brighton) were present to showcase ongoing research using 3D imaging techniques. The Minidome and MakerBot 3D printer captured the imagination of the public, prompting lots of discussion about its potential applications.The Minidome is an instrument that uses 198 lights and 1 camera to produce 3D relief models of physical objects. The captured images can then be saved as 3D models using open-source software (MeshLab), and 3D-printed using a 3D printer.

Brighton University’s Dr Karina Rodriguez-Echavarria, Dr Ran Song, Dr Roger Evans, Dean Few, Corinna Hattersley-Mitchell, Myrsini Samaroudi, Sandra Young were all present on the day to engage the public and help make the event a great success.

UCL’s Danae Pocobelli (SEAHA PhD student) was also on hand to showcase her PhD research in using Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the context of preserving historical buildings.

For more information about our Mobile Heritage Lab and how to request a visit, please see Mobile Heritage Lab page.

Written by Dr Miriam Wright, SEAHA Lab Technician


Mobile Heritage Lab visits the National Museum Wales

This blog post was originally published as ‘A Mobile Laboratory Visits the Museum’, by Dr Christian Baars, Senior Preventive Conservator at the National Museum Wales

There are times in life when a problem and its solution come together seamlessly. The problem – one which every museum faces: cryptic causes of deterioration of stored objects. The solution: investigation using the latest chemical analyses.

One step better: to combine this analysis with the mission of museums – inspiring people – and undertake the investigative work with full public engagement.

Like most museums, National Museum Cardiff has the task of slowing down corrosion to preserve collections. Think of your family silver tarnishing and you know what I am talking about. Multiply this by hundreds of thousands of metal objects in our collection and you understand the herculean task we face when we come to work every day.

Like most museums, we do not have much equipment to undertake complex chemical analyses. So when we want to investigate the magnitude of potential sources of corrosive airborne substances in our collection stores, we often work in partnership with academic institutions.

SEAHA is an initiative between three universities with industry and heritage partners to improve our understanding of heritage science. Heritage science is multi disciplinary and includes experts with chemistry, imaging, IT, engineering, architecture and other backgrounds. One of SEAHA’s amazing facilities is a fully equipped mobile laboratory. We submitted an application last year for the mobile lab to come to Cardiff which, amazingly (there is much demand for this vehicle), was approved. Last week, staff and postgraduate students from University College London, one of SEAHA’s academic partners, visited National Museum Cardiff.

The Mobile Heritage Lab was at the museum for two days. During this time, we assessed environments and pollutants in collection stores and in public galleries. We undertook this work with full involvement of our museum visitors. The mobile lab was parked next to the museum entrance where we encouraged our visitors to explore the on-board analytical equipment. UCL staff and students were at hand to explain how science helps us preserve heritage collections, for example how UV fluorescence is used to explore paintings.

We received a visit by A-level students from Fitzalan High School in Cardiff in the morning. The students were especially interested in chemistry. After a quick introduction, we gave the students an ultra-fine particle counter to produce a pollutant map of the public galleries at the museum. The students used this equipment to measure ultra-fine dust inside and outside the museum. We are still analysing these data, but the early results indicate that the museum’s air filtration system is doing a good job at keeping dust out of the building. This is important because the gases associated with ultra-fine particles (for example, SO2) can damage paper and other organic materials.

We also measured concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in collection stores and found that levels were higher inside drawers in the Entomology collection than in the store itself; this is important in the context of entomological pin corrosion. We managed to confirm that work we undertook recently to reduce the levels of VOC in the museum’s Mineralogy store had been effective and successful. In addition, we used a thermal imaging camera to check whether relatively high temperatures in a display case are caused by heating pipes in the wall behind the case, or by in-case lighting.

The Mobile Heritage Lab’s visit provided us with an opportunity to answer some important questions about the way we care for the museum’s collections. At the same time, we managed to teach students the practical applications of investigative science and analytical chemistry. Lastly, we spoke to many museum visitors about the role played by science in the preservation of heritage collections. We are extremely grateful for the fruitful partnership with SEAHA and hope to collaborate on additional projects in the near future. For example, there are some interesting questions surrounding the deposition of different types of dust which we discussed over a beer on Thursday evening. Watch this space as multi-disciplinary heritage science is becoming ever more important for answering questions of collection care and preservation. Museums are best placed to working in partnerships on important scientific questions while achieving public impact by explaining to a wider audience how science works.

Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales here and follow us on Twitter.


SEAHA Mobile Heritage Laboratory visited The National Archives to analyse degraded film collections

On 7th and 8th June 2017, SEAHA Mobile Heritage Laboratory (MHL) visited The National Archives (TNA) in Kew for a research and public engagement event entitled Beyond what the naked eye can see: Victorian Britain on Film. TNA is a heritage partner of SEAHA and has been collaborating with the British Film Institute (BFI) to study the degradation of cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate films to gain insights into the conservation and management of large scale film collections. This SEAHA MHL event was to highlight the use of cientific techniques in studying the degradation of historic films, to raise public awareness of the issues encountered with conserving heritage materials for future generations, as well as to promote conservation and heritage science as career choices.

On the first day of the event, SEAHA students and TNA’s photograph conservator looked at samples from early British film in the MHL. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) was used to investigate the spectral regions of camphor and liquid nitrate salts of cellulose nitrate and the Keyence-VHX 5000 digital microscope was used to examine the structural changes of cellulose acetate films during degradation. On the second day, the MHL was open to the public. About 40 participants were invited inside the MHL, where SEAHA students and TNA’s conservators shared their knowledge of how scientific analyses could help reveal material compositions, methods of production and signs of degradation through hands-on demonstrations. Both original and working film samples from TNA and the BFI at different degradation stages were available for handling and analysis. All participants benefitted from the discussions about long-term care for degrading film collections.

For more information about the project, please visit https://icon.org.uk/news/tna-blog-assessing-deterioration-in-film-and-photographs-how-can-science-help. For more information about SEAHA heritage partners, please visit http://www.seaha-cdt.ac.uk/partners-2/heritage/.



Image: SEAHA Mobile Heritage Laboratory at the National Archives for the event Beyond what the naked eye can see: Victorian Britain on Film. Credit: Boyce Keay.


Header Image: Analysing degraded film samples on a light table inside SEAHA Mobile Heritage Laboratory. Credit: Yun Liu.