Introduction

NHSF is asking the heritage science community to help it 'Fill the Gaps' in knowledge and understanding identified by the National Heritage Science Strategy.
In 2015 NHSF commissioned an initial review of the heritage science research that had been carried out since 2009. The resulting report ‘Filling the Gaps’ maps research listed on the Gateway to Research (i.e. funded by the UK Research Councils) to the gaps in knowledge and practice identified in “The role of science in the management of the UK's heritage”, one of the three evidence reports produced to support the development of the National Heritage Science Strategy.

NHSF is now working with the heritage science community to ‘crowd-source’ knowledge of heritage science research to further ‘fill the gaps’ in the 10 topics identified in the evidence report.

We want to identify the gaps in knowledge and practice that remain so that we can promote them to researchers and funders as opportunities to be addressed in the future. We also want to be able to share information on where to find research that has been carried out.

This survey addresses the 9th topic area ‘Past, present and future conservation treatments'.

The National Heritage Science Strategy evidence report identified the need to review current conservation practices in light of better long-term planning, and to conduct research into potential future techniques. 

To this effect, the evidence report called for research re-visiting current treatment options and operational procedures to:
  • assess the cost/benefit of existing treatment methods; ineffective treatments can lead to higher conservation and collection management costs in the future
  • ascertain whether anecdotal reporting of the deterioration of conserved objects are justified (e.g. recent questions about the long-term stability of PEG treated wood)
  • ensure that current treatments do not unintentionally reduce information retrieval; the information that can be recovered from heritage assets now is greater than when some treatments were devised (such as DNA from natural history collections, organic residues from ceramics)
  • consider the impact of standard procedures - for example, dusting and cleaning objects on display, or washing of archaeological finds
  • evaluate whether current techniques will still be appropriate in a changing climate. 
In terms of future techniques, the report identified the following areas for potential further development:
  • nanotechnology (for example, nanodeposition of calcium hydroxide for consolidation of wall paintings)
  • biotechnology (further testing of microbial cleaning and consolidation of stone)
  • improved methods of digitisation of paper and audio-visual material
  • further development of digital x-radiography
  • research into new coatings, particularly for outdoor metals (such as superhydrophobic materials)
  • laser cleaning (and its use on a larger range of materials)
  • treatments for modern materials
  • re-scaling of existing treatments, to be available at larger (i.e. laser cleaning) or smaller or more portable (i.e. mass de-acidification) scales
Finally, the report encouraged research into new materials to be used for conservation purposes, including:
  • lightweight strong materials, i.e. high tensile strength thread for displaying beadwork
  • new absorbent materials to control pollution and moisture
  • inert materials that can be used in treatment to improve the retention of shape (for example in all stages of the conservation of waterlogged archaeological leather)
Please add your knowledge of post-2009 research addressing any of these areas against the relevant heading on the following page. You do not have to fill in all the information.

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