News in brief

British Museum revamps Collection Online

PHOTO: © The Trustees of the British Museum
PHOTO: © The Trustees of the British Museum

The British Museum has recently launched a new version of its Collection Online website, featuring over half its collections, making it one of the largest such databases of any global museum. The updated resource encompasses nearly 4.5 million objects and 1.9 million images, including 85,000 new object records and 280,000 new photographs; records written in Chinese have also been expanded. A new function allows users to zoom to greater levels of detail on key objects, and the search function has been updated. The redesign also means the system can be used on mobiles and tablets for the first time. These updates have been released earlier than plannedso the portal can be enjoyed by people under lockdown; it is available at www.britishmuseum.org/collection. (For more ways to explore the past from home, see our special section on p.60.)

SmartWater ‘fingerprinting’ protecting artefacts

An innovative project (led by Professor Roger Matthews at the University of Reading in collaboration with the SmartWater Foundation, the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and Sulaimani Antiquities) is using SmartWater liquid to protect artefacts in museums in Iraq from destruction and theft by marking them with a unique invisible code. SmartWater Heritage liquid can only be seen under an black (ultraviolet) light; causes no damage to stone, metal, glass, or pottery; and can survive explosive blasts, harsh solvents, and extreme environmental conditions. It has been applied to more than 270,000 objects in Iraq to-date, giving them their own chemical fingerprint. This allows them to be traced if they fall into the wrong hands, and provides the evidence required to prosecute anyone found in illegal possession of such artefacts.

Historic mill producing flour again

Sturminster Newton Mill in Dorset has begun to produce flour on a commercial scale again, after decades as a tourist attraction. There is believed to have been a mill at the site on the River Stour since 1016, and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The current Grade II-listed building was reconstructed in the 18th century, and became a working museum and popular tourist attraction in 1970 after commercial operations ceased. The owners of the site usually operate the mill for a few days a month, producing enough flour to supply visitors during tourist season, but with tourism restricted and local shops reporting shortages, they decided to turn the mill back into a full-time operation, and have already produced more flour they usually would in a whole year.