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The use of science to enhance our understanding of the past

This is the second of three reports which provide the ‘evidence-base’ for a UK wide strategy for heritage science, covering both movable and immovable heritage. The formulation of a strategy is one of the recommendations to come from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into science and heritage held in 2006.

The report covers the use of science to enhance our understanding of the past. It reviews the principal drivers for scientific investigation in four subject areas (chronology, people and the environment, understanding materials and detecting and imaging heritage assets), highlights the kinds of enquiries that heritage practitioners make about the past in these areas and indicates the range of scientific techniques that are available to address these questions. For each subject area and heritage sub-sector (archaeology, historic built environment and movable heritage i.e. museums, galleries, libraries and archives), a summary of the use of particular techniques is given, along with recommended areas for improvement.

Three general themes are identified:

  • development of tools and access to equipment,
  • raising awareness of existing techniques and their application, and
  • data use and management.

Contents

  • 1 Introduction
       1.1 Background
       1.2 How is heritage science information used
       1.3 Structure of report
       1.4 Sources and methods
    2 How heritage science can enhance understanding and public engagement with the past
       2.1 Chronology
       2.2 People and the environment
       2.3 Understanding materials
       2.4 Detecting and imaging heritage assets
    3 Archaeology
       3.1 Situations in which scientific techniques are used
       3.2 Chronology
       3.3 People and the environment
       3.4 Understanding materials
       3.5 Detecting and imaging heritage assets
    4 Built historic environment
       4.1 Situations in which scientific techniques are used
       4.2 Chronology
       4.3 People and the environment
       4.4 Understanding materials
       4.5 Detecting and imaging heritage assets
    5 Museums and galleries
       5.1 Situations in which scientific techniques are used
       5.2 Chronology
       5.3 People and the environment
       5.4 Understanding materials
       5.5 Detecting and imaging heritage assets
    6 Libraries/archives
       6.1 Situations in which scientific techniques are used
    7 Areas of commonality
       7.1 Theme 4 – Development of tools and access to equipment
       7.2 Theme 5 – Raising awareness of existing techniques and their application
       7.3 Theme 6 – Data use and management
    8 Conclusions
    9 Commenting on this report
    10 References
    Appendix 1 List of steering group members
    Appendix 2 Abbreviations

Additional Information

  • Publication Status: Completed

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