Funding awarded to National Trust for new scientific technology

The funding will enable the conservation charity to upgrade and expand scientific and archaeological research on its historic sites and collections.

The National Trust has been awarded £809,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and World Class Labs for the purchasing of new scientific equipment, which will enable the conservation charity to upgrade and expand research on its historic sites and collections.

Awarded through the Creative Research Capability (CResCa) programme, the funding will help in delivering the Trust’s project: Future Heritage Now: Delivering Creative Research Through Enhanced Scientific Analysis.

Paul Harris Geophysical survey at Corfe Castle, Dorset, conducted in collaboration with the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology. The session took place on the site of Norden, which is the Roman settlement overlooked by the Castle ruins. IMAGE: National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Some of the funding will go towards enhancing the work of the charity’s Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio at Knole in Kent and the Textile Conservation Studio at Blickling in Norfolk, as well as science and archaeological capabilities across its sites.

The Trust intends to purchase a portable X-Ray fluorescence (pXRF) analyser. These have become a key piece of equipment for researchers wanting a quick and easy way to assess an object’s geochemical profile.

Using pXRF analysis, Trust teams can lead research at its own properties and, for example, identify what pigments have been used for artworks, distinguish between original paint and that added during later restorations, and gain more insight into the provenance of items in its collections.

State-of-the-art portable 3D scanners, which can be used to generate digital models of archaeological sites and monuments, will also be purchased. The Trust hope to use them to laser scan historic graffiti at Mottisfont in Hampshire.

Dino-Lite equipment, which enables conservators to microscopically inspect and assess the condition of materials, in use at the Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio. IMAGE: National Trust Images/Textile Conservation Studios

Archaeologists and heritage volunteers at the charity will also benefit from new geophysical survey equipment. There are plans to use it in researching the landscape at Hinton Amper in Hampshire, for assessing the condition of Bronze Age Barrows on the Isle of Wight, and in examining the remains of a medieval manor house at Ickworth in Suffolk.

Finally, Trust teams will be able to address the issue of the light sensitivity of paintings, photographs, tapestries, and textiles – and make informed decisions about their care and display – through microfading equipment.

Dr Tarnya Cooper, the Trust’s Conservation and Curation Director, said: ‘Our Future Heritage Now project forms an important part of our ongoing commitment to protect heritage and enable access for everyone, for ever, helping us to share equipment and knowledge, inform regulatory frameworks, contribute to the UK’s creative economy and develop the skills needed to meet heritage challenges now and in the future.’