Heritage Science

Heritage Science aims to improve the preservation, understanding or treatment of cultural heritage.

This can include:

  • reviewing conservation literature
  • scientific analysis
  • artificial ageing experiments
  • real-time condition monitoring

Our work focuses on three main areas:

  1. the development and exploitation of scientific research and visualisation techniques.
  2. applying for and participating in large-scale funded research projects.
  3. increasing the Bodleian Libraries’ profile in the arena of international conservation research.

Our underlying principles of research are:

  1. Where possible analysis should be non-destructive, non-invasive, non-sampling
  2. Research should have maximum benefit to a University-wide audience. This includes Conservation and Collection Care, Bodleian Curatorial, researchers and Readers, and other Heritage institutions.
  3. Where possible research proposals should be attractive for sponsorship

Three promising techniques under investigation are:

  1. Multispectral Imaging
    - Relatively new technique in Cultural Heritage
    - Several 'products' actually prototypes
    - Expensive
  2. Raman Spectroscopy (Pigments)
  3. X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (metals)

Three current projects:

  1. Multispectral imaging of the Gough map
  2. Multispectral imaging of Tanis papyrus
  3. Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) of Arshama seals

Work with Heritage Science


Howell, D "The potential of hyperspectral imaging for researching colour on artefacts" in Digital Imaging of Artefacts: Developments in Methods and Aims, ed Kate Kelley and Rachel Wood, Archeaopress, 2018.

David Howell, “Jonathan Ashley-Smith: mentor, role model, inspiration”, Journal of the Institute of Conservation, (2018)

A.Beeby, L. Garner, D. Howell, C.E. Nicholson, “There’s more to reflectance spectroscopy than lux’, J. Inst. Conserv. (2018).

Maybury, I.J., Howell, D., Terras, M. et al. “Comparing the effectiveness of hyperspectral imaging and Raman spectroscopy: a case study on Armenian manuscripts”, Heritage Science (2018)

Nick Millea, David Howell, “Revealing the Past: How Science Is Unlocking Cartographic Secrets” In: Altiæ M., Demhardt I., Vervust S. (eds) Dissemination of Cartographic Knowledge. Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography. Springer, Cham (2018)

Richard Mulholland, David Howell, Andrew Beeby, Catherine Nicholson and Kelly Domoney, “Identifying eighteenth century pigments at the Bodleian library using in situ Raman spectroscopy, XRF and hyperspectral imaging”, Heritage Science (2017)

Di Bai, David W. Messinger, David Howell, "A pigment analysis tool for hyperspectral images of cultural heritage artifacts", Proc. SPIE 10198, Algorithms and Technologies for Multispectral, Hyperspectral, and Ultraspectral Imagery XXIII, 101981A (2017)

Di Bai, David W. Messinger, David Howell, "Hyperspectral analysis of cultural heritage artifacts: pigment material diversity in the Gough Map of Britain," Optical Engineering 56(8), 081805 (2017).

Ludo Snijders, Tim Zaman, and David Howell, “Using hyperspectral imaging to reveal a hidden precolonial Mesoamerican codex”, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Elsevier October (2016)

The Technological Study of Books and Manuscripts as Artefacts Research questions and analytical solutions edited by Sarah Neate, David Howell, Richard Ovenden and A.M. Pollard. BAR, (2011).

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