Science & Heritage: Sustaining the Impact Conference

Phillip.Lindley | October 27, 2013

Europac scanning British Museum panel

Europac scanning British Museum panel

The Science & Heritage Programme’s final event takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on tuesday 29th and wednesday 30th October 2013.    It will be opened by Baroness Sharp of Guildford, chair of the Lords Committee whose Science & Heritage Report set the whole programme in motion, by Prof Nigel Llewellyn, Head of Research at Tate, and by Simon Cane from Birmingham Museums Trust.  The plenary sessions continue with Rt Hon David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, Dr Michael Dixon of the Natural History Museum and Prof May Cassar, who is Director of the whole programme which has funded ‘Representing Re-Formation: Reconstructing Renaissance Monuments’ as one of its major projects.

After lunch, the conference divides into parallel sessions on Materials, Culture and Technology. Prof Fraser and I will be representing the project in the Culture sessions (though George might well feel that he has something substantive to contribute to the Technology sessions too). On wednesday the parallel sessions continue, with the plenary sessions after lunch and with a concluding panel discussion on the public value of Science and Heritage Research with Profs Rick Rylance of the AHRC and Dave Delpy of the EPSRC, Philip Campbell of Nature and Baroness Andrews.

It promises to be a fitting culmination to the whole programme, but it will be interesting to see if the main problems addressed in the Lords report have really been met.  From my personal perspective, the closure of the public exhibition space at the Conservation Centre in Liverpool and the decision to disband the Laser Scanning Conservation unit by National Museums Liverpool earlier this year are retrograde steps. Dr Cooper’s team were pioneers of laser cleaning and scanning in this country and helped us at the beginning of the project: I took Piyal Ratna-Samara and Nishad Karim up to meet them before we started work and we benefited from looking at their projects.

Tourism is the country’s fifth-largest industry and maintaining our cultural heritage, with a properly effective interface between science and heritage, demands political will, and funding through DCMS.  The disciplines of Art and Architectural History ought to be at the forefront of the drive to ensure that the valuable progress made by the Science and Heritage Programme is maintained and enhanced in the next decade.  Undoubtedly, collaboration with commercial companies will assist those of us who work in universities. My own forensic use of 3D laser scanning has relied heavily on commercial partners such as Europac and my forthcoming projects will again employ external companies to provide expertise.  It will, though, be important that the type of valuable but disinterested advice we have received from Paul Bryan of English Heritage continues to be available.

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