New network to help conserve cultural heritage


Imperial College London is working with the Mary Rose Trust to prevent further degradation of the artefacts.

Imperial is working with the Mary Rose Trust to prevent further degradation of the warship which sank in 1545. Image copyright: Hufton+Crow.

A new Network of Excellence has been established to bring scientists and engineers together with conservators and curators.

The artworks and artefacts that we inherit from the past have a powerful impact on our society today. The conservation of this cultural heritage is of immense importance, so they can be viewed by future generations. However, such objects can age and ware over time through environmental conditions, or simply poor attempts at restoration.

We may be aware of previous examples of poor restoration, a notable recent example is of a copy of Immaculate Conception painting by Murillo reportedly was cleaned by furniture restorer..
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s original work (left) and two attempts at restoring a copy of it. Photograph: Cedida por Coleccionista/Europa Press 2020

You may be aware of previous examples of poor restoration. A notable recent example is of a copy of the Immaculate Conception painting by Murillo, which was reportedly cleaned by furniture restorer. The two attempts to restore the original left the face of the Virgin Mary unrecognisable.

Where art and cultural heritage meets science

We hope that this collaborative work will foster new relations between art, culture and science. Ambrose Taylor Network lead

A newly formed Network of Excellence at Imperial seeks to bring scientists and engineers who can identify mechanisms that drive the degradation of historic objects, or how those objects might respond to treatment, together with conservators. The hope is that this will lead to more informed choices about suitable treatments. The Network - Science and Engineering Research for Cultural Heritage - will be lead by Ambrose Taylor and Professor Sergei Kazarian

Partners of the project include the British Museum, the Royal College of Music, the Natural History Museum, the Tate, the V&A and the Mary Rose Trust.

Network launch

The first event for the new Network is a panel discussion on "Where Art and Cultural Heritage Meets Science". The discussion will involve leading figures from the area of conservation research, including Sarah Healey-Dilkes, Senior Sculpture Conservator at the V&A Museum and Professors Mary Ryan and Pier Luigi Dragotti from Imperial College London. 

Anne Barrett, Imperial’s Archivist and Corporate Records Manager, and author of the book “Women at Imperial College Past, Present and Future” will be speaking alongside Geraldine Cox, Artist in Residence in Physics. The discussion will be chaired by Professor Sian Harding.

"Where Art and Cultural Heritage Meets Science" takes place on Thursday 29 April at 16:00 BST. You can find out more about the event here.


Dr Kieran Brophy

Dr Kieran Brophy
Faculty of Engineering

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