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  • ISAAC Lab

Analysis through a museum display case!

The ISAAC Mobile Lab's SWIR hyperspectral imaging system allows rapid in-situ condition assessment of a whole British Museum collection.

Rebecca, our Cultural Heritage Research peak funded PhD student, is using our SWIR hyperspectral imaging system to analyse Limoges enamels from the Waddesdon Bequest (gallery 2a).

Rebecca is assessing the hydration state of each enamel. This indicates the object’s level of degradation, and allows rapid in-situ condition assessment of the whole collection. This means that the objects in the collection can remain on display during the analysis, and only the objects which are flagged for conservation need to be removed from the display case, saving time and limiting handling and the potential for accidental damage.

Rebecca's project, Enamels: a Study of the Global Transfer of Technology, builds on a previous PhD research project, Application of Non-invasive Analytical Techniques for the Investigation of Vitreous Materials in Museum Collections, by Dr Maggie Read, which was funded by AHRC CDP with the British Museum.

Dr Read's pilot study with the ISAAC Research Centre demonstrated the applicability of non-destructive Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Hyperspectral Imaging techniques to the study of enamels. In particular, they are well-suited to the analysis of museum collections, as large numbers of objects may be studied non-destructively at relatively little cost and time.

Rebecca's project applies the recent pilot study findings to a larger scale analysis of enamel objects from the British Museum and V&A collections, in order to develop a non-destructive analysis methodology for the study of enamels. This will inform conservation priorities, allow a detailed understanding of the manufacture of enamels held in the collections, and, by comparison of objects across different regions and time periods, enable an investigation into the global transfer of enamelling technologies.


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