Materiality, authenticity and value in the historic environment: a study of the effects of material transformation and scientific intervention

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of Scotland
Department Name: School of Engineering

Abstract

It is widely recognized that the historic environment provides a source of cultural enrichment, and enhances people's quality of life and well-being. However, it also undergoes cycles of material transformation, of decay and renewal, which inform the meanings and values associated with it. Indeed, these changes contribute to the experience of authenticity. Decay acts as a tangible mark of age, and the patina produced by everyday weathering and wear provides a sense of connection across generations. At the same time processes of decay and degradation are assessed and arrested by organisations charged with conserving the historic environment for future generations. Much of this work relies on scientific methods and techniques, which have been developed for use in conserving the historic environment. However, by intervening to modify processes of transformation and decay, these techniques can have a powerful impact on the fabric of historic buildings. They can alter their appearance and introduce new materials, as well as affect the cultural meanings and values attached to them by various groups of people.

In this project we use methods from the arts and humanities, including interviews and forms of participant observation, to examine the kinds of value attached to deterioration and decay in historic buildings. We investigate how decisions about the conservation of materials are informed by these values and related ideas of authenticity. We also explore how science-based interventions alter these meanings and values, and impact on perceptions of 'the real' and the 'authentic'. Our partners include the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, organisations that are involved in conserving and managing some of Scotland's most important historic sites. They provide case studies involving particular historic buildings or monuments that are currently the subject of active conservation. This provides us with the opportunity to study how the science-based techniques they use both inform, and are informed by, cultural values and ideas of authenticity.

Our project brings together researchers from the humanities and the sciences in a cross-disciplinary collaboration. We are also in partnership with the leaders of a European research project (HEROMAT), which allows us to study the values attached to the latest developments in scientific conservation methods. The research will be of benefit to a wide range of academic researchers and professionals involved in conserving the historic environment. The results are intended to inform future conservation policy and practice, ensuring that science-based techniques are used in a culturally sensitive way in conserving the historic environment.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries include:
- Conservation practitioners and heritage scientists, through the project's contribution to culturally informed conservation of the historic environment.
- Our partner heritage organisations: through practical involvement at the heart of the research that will feed into their ongoing and future work, informing assessment and decision-making.
- Members of the public: who benefit indirectly through the impact of the research on future conservation, improving interventions sensitive to issues of social and cultural significance
- Academics - see section "Academic Beneficiaries"

This project will increase knowledge and understanding of the intersection between material transformation, scientific intervention and cultural value. The results will inform the application of heritage science to problems associated with material degradation and decay. Conservation practitioners and heritage scientists will benefit from new insights into the effects of particular kinds of intervention on heritage values. The results of the research should also contribute to the development of professional policy and practice within heritage organisations. An important objective of the project is to provide a model for an integrated approach to managing material degradation in the historic environment that brings together methodologies from the humanities and the sciences thus increasing mutual understanding between science and humanities-based approaches within academic and professional conservation sectors. Both academics and professionals (in the spheres of conservation, heritage science and heritage management) will be able to benefit from the utilisation of this cross-disciplinary methodological approach, through an improved understanding of how decisions are influenced by both values and science based activities.

The case studies involve real, ongoing, interventions such that our findings may have an impact on their eventual outcomes. The NTS and HS will therefore benefit directly from the results of the research, which can feed into their ongoing and future work, informing assessment and decision-making. They will also gain first hand experience of the application of arts and humanities methods in the context of heritage science.

The public will benefit indirectly through the impact of the research on future conservation. The values attached to material transformation by various non-professional audiences will be investigated at the case study sites. Through dissemination of the results to those involved in the conservation of the historic environment we will raise awareness of the relationship between the material and cultural aspects of transformation, facilitating interventions that are sensitive to issues of social and cultural significance.

Publications


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Douglas-Jones R (2015) Claiming and knowing the real: authenticity today in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Douglas-Jones R (2015) Growing old Gracefully?
John J Hughes (2013) Materiality, Authenticity and Value in the Historic Environment: A Study of The Effects of Material Transformation and Scientific Intervention in AHRC/EPSRC SCIENCE AND HERITAGE PROGRAMME • SUSTAINING THE IMPACT OF UK SCIENCE AND HERITAGE RESEARCH
 
Description The implications of this research can be summarised as follows.

First, material transformation, including decay, does not merely impact on heritage significance. It is an integral aspect of the values that underpin significance.

Second, these values are dynamic and contextual. They may vary over time, between and within sites, and between different heritage professionals and stakeholders, in ways that cannot be determined in advance.

Third, the application of heritage science to measuring, understanding and modifying material transformation is embedded in these values; it both informs and is informed by them.

Fourth, integrated qualitative research methods can increase our understanding of these important, site-specific conditions and processes, and thus contribute to more nuanced and
productive applications of heritage science, sensitive to the values associated with heritage sites.
Exploitation Route Based upon our conclusions we recommend:

That further qualitative research is conducted on the relationship between material transformation, authenticity, value and heritage science. The tendency of heritage science to focus on a specific material or environmental process and to extract data in relation to this, even setting up controlled laboratory experiments, means that 'material/cultural interface' (Cassar 2009) is always in danger of being over-looked.

It is not possible to identify rules or models that can be generalized, because the values and qualities associated with material transformation are complex, situated and contextual. We therefore recommend that qualitative methods, such as participant observation, interviewing and focus groups, should be routinely employed to explore the site specific values and qualities associated with material transformation. Data from
such research could then be taken into account when planning interventions and assessing their future impact.

Changes in training, expertise and institutional cultures will also be necessary to effectively integrate qualitative methods in such a routine fashion.

Our final recommendation is that forums are created
to facilitate open-ended discussion of such issues amongst heritage scientists, conservators, managers and other heritage professionals. The promotion of inter-disciplinary dialogue, especially across the sciences and humanities, is a less commonplace, but increasingly important measure.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
URL https://www.academia.edu/7866020/Materiality_authenticity_and_value_in_the_historic_environment_a_study_of_the_effects_of_material_transformation_and_scientific_intervention
 
Description This primary research project (MAV) explored how the use of heritage science in conservation mediates heritage values and authenticity. We worked with two major heritage organisations (NTS and HS) and a range of other stakeholders. The main journal article provides recommendations for practitioners based on the results and we have also published a short piece in a professional conservation magazine. A project workshop in January 2014 brought stakeholders and academics together to discuss the results and wider issues and implications. The interaction with our project partners, sometimes through formal research interviews, resulted in discussion and changes of view amongst the partners with regard to the topic of scientific work in relation to value and authenticity in conservation. We also collaborated with the FP7 HEROMAT project, attending two HEROMAT project meetings presenting papers on the MAV project. This allowed us to reach a wider European network and to bring MAV results to bear on the development of new scientific conservation materials. Prof Jones is a contributor to the new Scottish Carved Stone Research Framework, currently in final stages of development: Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland: A Research Framework (Scottish Archaeology Research Framework (ScARF)). In this context Prof Jones has highlighted the outcomes of MAV and has offered to include a short summary case study of the project (TBC). (https://www.stir.ac.uk/cehp/projects/futurethinkingoncarvedstonesinscotland/ ) Dr Hughes is leading an international congress on the Deterioration of Stone in late 2016, which has led him into discussions with the local Renfrewshire Council on the role the Congress can play in the town of Paisley's bid for UK City of Culture 2021. (https://sites.google.com/site/sc16test/) This would have been less of interest but for the outcomes of MAV.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services
 
Description Studentship funding
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of the West of Scotland 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Description Studentship funding
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Manchester 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2017
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation Arteria Association
Country Poland, Republic of 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation Baltic Sea Cultural Centre in Gdansk
Country Poland, Republic of 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation Government of Scotland
Department Historic Scotland
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre
Country Norway, Kingdom of 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation National Research Council (CNR)
Department Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
Country Italy, Italian Republic 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU)
Country Norway, Kingdom of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg
Country Netherlands, Kingdom of the 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation University of Aveiro
Department Department of Civil Engineering
Country Portugal, Portuguese Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ANCCHORS 
Organisation University of the Highlands and Islands
Department Environmental Research Institute
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Funding bid made to H2020 workprogramme "Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions", call H2020-SC6-CULT-COOP-2016-2017; "Europe in a changing world". The proposal was called ANCCHORS:A Network of Coastal Communities: Heritage Opportunities and Research for Sustainability. We at UWS coordinated this first stage proposal.
Collaborator Contribution All partners collaborated on the formulation of the funding bid, contributing case study and methodological materials.
Impact None as yet, awaiting decision on entry to stage two of the scheme.
Start Year 2016
 
Description DRAM - Digital Research Atlas of the Mack research proposal 
Organisation Glasgow School of Art
Department Digital Design Studio
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We (UWS) were invited to become Co-I on this proposal to the AHRC for funding research into the digital representation of the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow. Following the fire in 2014, a great deal of research and information gathering has taken, and is still taking place. This proposal seeks to integrate these sources of knowledge and interpretation within a single model, that will aid understanding and interpretation of the building in the future. The contribution of UWS is to advise and represent the area of materials heritage science during the creation of this model. This grew from involvement with the MAV project, as MAV served as an introduction to the humanities and social aspects of heritage. In addition Prof Jones is also a co-I on the new DRAM proposal, as an expert in cultural significance and authenticity.
Collaborator Contribution The partner (GSA) is the PI for this project, so has coordinated and composed all materials associated with the funding proposal.
Impact No outputs to date, except the research proposal documents.
Start Year 2015
 
Description HERICULT 
Organisation University of Novi Sad
Department Department of Materials Engineering
Country Serbia, Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborated with the Uni of Novi Sad, on two submissions of a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action, an Innovative Training Network (ITN) bid under call: H2020-MSCA-ITN-2016. THis involved collaboration with 17 organisations, with Nov Sad as coordinator, but also with Prof Jones (Co-I on the MAV project), at her new insitution the University of Stirling. We contributed proposals for ESR training and doctoral studies.
Collaborator Contribution The collaborators performed a similar role to UWS, and the Uni of Novi Sad coordinated the entire effort.
Impact Two iterations of a full Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN Action Bid were produced and submitted to the European Commission.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Conference on Coastal Landscapes, Mining Activities & Preservation of Cultural Heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact An invited presentation was given ("Approaches to conservation - requirements, characterisation and repair") to an interdisciplinary audience of geologists, archaeologists and industrial mineralogists. The presentation drew on the context of the research project to inform a debate abbout the relationship between conservation and scientific work. This generated questions and a awareness in the audience of these issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.geol.uoa.gr/attachments/article/1388/1st%20circular-Milos%20Conference_20140421b.pdf
 
Description HEROMAT EU 7FP project Final Conference, Novi Sad, Serbia, November 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Following on from the involvement in the Perugia meeting, Prof Jones was invited to present at the final conference of the HEROMAT project (Dr Hughes, PI for MAV was a co-I on the HEROMAT project). She presented, drawing on the MAV research; 'Situating heritage science: significance, authenticity and materiality.' This activity led on to invitation to participate in the HEROMAT consortium's (with additional partners) subsequent resubmission bid to H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN bid in January 2016 ( Dr Hughes at UWS was part of the original 2015 bid). The inclusion of Prof Jones in the bid recognized the potential impact and also the importance of the humanities aspects of heritage conservation activity relevant to technical and scientific research in heritage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.heromat.com/images/documents/heromat-reader.pdf
 
Description HEROMAT EU FP7 Project Meeting, Perugia, Italy, May 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation was delivered to a public workshop as part of the 3rd consortium meeting of the HEROMAT FP7 EU funded research project (see www.heromat.com). This raised the issue of site specific contextual issues in the application of specialist coatings in conservation works, putting forward the argument for the consideration of conservation values and philosophies to be considered alongside scientific interventions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description National Trust for Scotland Hill House Seminar, Feb 26th 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation was made by the MAV project research associate, Dr Douglas-Jones, to an audience at the National Trust for Scotland. The workshop/seminar brought together stakeholders (architects, custodians, building scientists, conservators, managers etc etc..) concerned with the conservation of the C.R. Macintosh designed Hillhouse in Helensburgh which is owned by the Trust. The building is facing significant conservation problems, mostly connected to the choice and use of the original construction materials, particularly the cement-based render. Dr Douglas-Jones communicated the outcomes of field research that she had conducted at the HIll House and from interviews conducted with scientists, managers and conservators connected with the building. This generated a lot of discussion on the value associated with the fabric of the building particularily around the status of the render, and the requirement or otherwise for its conservation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Research Seminar Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar presentation given to expert heritage audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014