A reflection of the E-RIHS IPERION CH international workshop: “From Cross-disciplinary Research to Heritage Science”

Florence, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, 18 October 2018
International workshop "From cross-disciplinary research to heritage science"

On October 18th 2018 experts from over sixteen countries were brought together for an international workshop “From Cross-disciplinary Research to Heritage Science” in Florence, Italy organised by E-RIHS and IPERION CH. The meeting aimed to celebrate and reflect on the twenty-year multidisciplinary collaboration between the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (OPD), as well as address the future vision and challenges of heritage science research and collaboration within Europe. The workshop included speakers from OPD, CNR, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and University College London (UCL).

The first half of the day focused on presentations about important collaborations and research projects that have shaped heritage science research so far. The workshop began with a fitting tribute to The Fogg Art Museum Technical Laboratory in 1928, one of the first collaborative centres of art history, conservation and science. Speakers later reported on more recent collaborative projects like the new developments in high-resolution infrared imaging at the CNR-OPD laboratory; CAST:ING, the inter-disciplinary framework facilitating advances in the understanding of bronze sculpture; and the scientific analysis and conservation of Jackson Pollack’s ‘Alchemy’ painting at Guggenheim Venice. The presentations gave the audience a deep appreciation of the history and progression of the field and showcased the future possibilities of heritage science research collaborations within E-RIHS.

Key take-aways include:

  • Interdisciplinarity is key. Past and present projects show that humanities and sciences are combatable disciplines that need to be used together to best preserve our heritage. Researchers are continually working together to improve technologies to investigate heritage objects.
  • Heritage scientists and conservators are a critical conscience to the global challenge of heritage preservation. We as experts need to determine the demand for conservation as we are best equipped to recognise the symptoms of deterioration.
  • E-RIHS can increase the impact of heritage science by fostering collaborative and cross-disciplinary skills, providing a common forum for STEM and humanities users and researchers, and enable a shared identity through a strong heritage science network.

The second half of the day considered the future vision and mission of heritage science. Here, speakers explored how E-RIHS will help shape this future international landscape, concluding in a Round Table discussion between heritage actors in the museum sector, private industry, policy and economics.

Speakers presented the exciting opportunities ahead of us and the foreseen impacts of the E-RIHS vision:

  • New knowledge and new methods
  • Data sciences and imaging
  • Democratisation of knowledge through digital platforms
  • Industrial opportunities
  • A new generation of scientists

All of which will have impact beyond the heritage science community. The presenters also discussed key global challenges that will need to be addressed by E-RIHS; including global inequality and vulnerability between countries, the need to increase the impact of heritage science, and a lack of a clear ‘heritage scientist’ identity; leaving the participants with provocative ideas to be considered. Overall, it was a fantastic day of knowledge sharing where participants were able to extensively discuss the past, current and future state of European heritage science. The speakers presentations are available on http://www.e-rihs.eu/documentation/.

Watch at the discussion during the round table (Facebook live):