Science meets heritage

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council are working on an £8m initiative to protect Britain’s cultural heritage from the effects of climate change.


The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are working together on an £8m initiative to help protect Britain’s culturally important buildings against the effects of climate change.


The project will also focus on art collections, books and other artefacts of significance.

The Science and Heritage programme will involve a number of projects that combine skills from science, engineering and arts backgrounds to develop new techniques that will help prevent old stonework deteriorating.

As one of the first projects in the scheme, PhD students at the University of York are working with heritage specialists on developing X-ray techniques that will be used to analyse restoration work carried out on York’s Minster.

Around £500,000 per year is spent on restoration work at the limestone cathedral, and the project hopes to analyse how cost-effective their methods are.

Project leader, Karen Wilson, said: ‘Most of the work we are doing is concerned with how magnesian limestone and mortars used for repairs of magnesian limestone-based architecture decay and weather.

‘We will look at previous building materials used in restoration and the different compositions to understand why they have decayed or survived. We will then try to advise teams on the best materials to use. We are using techniques that have not traditionally been used to look at these materials to get additional information.’

A further project is being undertaken at the University of East Anglia to assess how changes in environment could affect the indoor environment of historic buildings.

Project leader, Prof Peter Brimblecombe, said that by assessing the way materials react in different climates, mitigation methods could be put in place that are often simple and inexpensive.