Italy and the UK for cultural heritage

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 C. Andreani    22-12-2014     Leggi in PDF

A vibrant Symposium entitled "Cultural Heritage and Advanced Technologies", co-organized by the Italian Embassy in London, Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron Source and the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, was hosted at the Italian Institute of Culture London on the 13th November 2014.

The initiative addressed the state of the art of technologies applied to the artistic and archaeological heritage, bringing closer together multi-disciplinary, museum-based research conservators and experts from material technologies, neutron and synchrotron radiation research facilities and "conventional" techniques. The programmed talks were tailored to cover: the heritage context; the opportunities and constraints in the interaction between heritage and advanced technology; a wide range of established and emerging applications of neutron and light probes in cultural heritage and archaeological sciences, currently going on at ISIS and Diamond, the neutron and synchrotron radiation facilities in the UK, respectively.

Warm welcome addresses by Pasquale Terraciano, Italian Ambassador in the UK, and by Luigi Nicolais, President of CNR, the Italian National Research Council, opened up the Symposium.

Italy and the UK for cultural heritage

Neutron radiography of gold head from Battistero di Firenze - East Door- by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455).
Courtesy: Giulia Festa (Università degli Studi Roma Tor Vergata)

Italy and the United Kingdom have many reasons to celebrate their great cultural diversity and the thousands of outstanding examples of ancient architecture, artefacts and landscapes that attract millions of tourists to renowned cities and historic sites, said May Cassar (UCL) in her opening introduction. The cultural heritage context was introduced by Gary Grubb, illustrating the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council programme activities, and by Luisa Cifarelli (University of Bologna), introducing the beauty of "The Historic Sites Initiative". The latter was launched by the European Physical Society for commemorating important places in the development and history of physics across Europe. Modern analytical techniques applied to the heritage were reviewed by Matija Strlic (UCL), highlighting the meeting point of convergence of art, science, public engagement and industry, and by Gilberto Artioli (University of Padova), who illustrated recent applications of materials science at neutron and synchrotron facilities to archaeometry and conservation science. In this context it was shown as some of the recent characterization methods developed at ISIS and Diamond have achieved a high degree of sophistication while others currently being developed. A re-occurring topic throughout this session was the non-destructiveness of the various techniques and probes.

Eleanor Schofield (Mary Rose Trust) addressed the marine wood conservation, metallurgy and wood preservation related to the Mary Rose project, presenting results from synchrotron radiation analyses and wood preservation issues of the Mary Rose timber. Mattia Cavanna (Finmeccanica) and Luigi Maria Vignali (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) presented a recent example of the intervention in the protection of the archaeological site of Pompei that Finmeccanica has donated to monitor the condition of the site from space and on the ground. Novel materials technologies and integrated approach using nanocomposites for the heritage were introduced by Luigi Ambrosio (CNR); Piero Baglioni (University of Florence) introduced nanoscience applications to art conservation and maintenance; Adam Lee (Aston University) showed how the limestone protection is a key construction component of many historic buildings.

Overall the Symposium developed an exciting atmosphere, where oral presentation provided a survey of the established research and the most promising lines of technical developments, reviewing the portfolio of novel research tools and materials technologies for assignment, conservation and restoration of historical and artistic objects. All speakers received plenty of constructive feedback from the participants.