The current research proposes that the use of 3D documentation and the various modes of non-invasive scientific imaging and analysis in heritage science, have the potential to be combined as powerful interpretation material. This material could be used by museums, heritage organisations, conservation and heritage science researchers to create greater impact and public engagement. Scientific imaging, analysis and 3D modelling can be used to illustrate and develop the object biography. 3D modelling, through the medium of film, can be employed to communicate complex scientific concepts in a ‘micro documentary’ format that enriches the understanding and interpretation of our material culture. The aim is to orchestrate these existing technologies to produce a continuum from scientific investigation to interpretation output.

A case study has been carried out at Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, with support and assistance from ISAAC mobile lab, to analyse and image the Flawford Virgin, a 14th C medieval Nottingham alabaster sculpture, Nottingham Salt Glaze pottery and machine and handmade lace. ‘Micro documentary’ films are under currently development. The analysis techniques employed in the creation of these films include: X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF); optical coherence tomography (OCT); fibre optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS); reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) along with film, macro photography and photogrammetry for 3D modelling. The resulting films will interpret the data from these non-invasive analytical techniques to illustrate the object biography. The 3D model will be a vehicle to present the nature of the analytical methods along with outcomes from the analysis of the data.

(a) Nottingham Salt Glaze pottery in the form of a bear being ‘baited’ by a dog, (b) 3D Model of the structure of machine lace created from focal stacked images and (c) the face of the Flawford Virgin, a 14th C medieval Nottingham alabaster sculpture.

This project orchestrates technologies together in an innovative way to illustrate the object biography. Many of the scientific techniques employed here are normally used to drive outcomes for traditional research outputs such as peer review paper and conference presentation. Yet here the audience is different. The employment of 3D and film making techniques in unison with scientific imaging creates an output that is aimed at the traditional museum audience and could be employed in either ‘in gallery display’ or on the museum website. In fact, this film making approach lends itself to ‘transmedia story telling’ across a range of web and social media platforms. This is particularly relevant to the smaller and non-national museums who would not have the research facilities or

media skills to achieve this within their own resources and funding structures. This aspect of the research asks some pertinent questions as to the nature of the motivating factors that would bring heritage scientists, conservators, curators and interpretation specialists to work collaboratively on projects such as this. It also reveals substantial barriers to these collaborations, especially for the non-national, non-research enabled museums.

Current Research Developments

Alabaster statue of the 'Flawford Virgin'


Re-colouring the Flawford Virgin:

Reflectance spectroscopy & X-ray Fluorescence spectroscopy are used to identify the pigments and re-map the original colour of the 14th C medieval sculpture. This image shows areas where vermillion and the original gilding would have been (still from the film ‘Flawford Virgin’)


Characterising the Virgin’s Alabaster:

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) imaging is revealing the grains of the alabaster from which the virgin is carved. In this image the large dark areas are grain structures imbedded in the matrix. This could be informative as to the local source of the stone.


Was the Virgin attacked:

RTI imaging shows damage to the lips and nostril, progressing through on to the cheek and catching upper and lower eyelid before stopping behind the eye. This raises the engaging research question that the damage to the side of her face could have been a blow from a bladed weapon. 

Salt Glaze

OCT data is revealing the subsurface microstructure of the glaze layer of salt glaze pottery for further analysis and categorisation.

Interview program:

An interview program is under way to raise critical debate amongst professionals in the field to discuss the motivations and barriers to collaborative work of this nature to inform the development of the research.

Conference presentations:



Academic Supervisors:  Dr Duncan Grewcock 

                                        Prof.Haida Liang

                                        Dr Andrew Gritt 

PhD student:                  Christopher PickUp

Research Fellows:          Dr Sotiria Kogou 



ISTeC 003

School of Science and Technology
Nottingham Trent University
Clifton Campus,

NG11 8NS

Tel: +44 115 84 86360

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