Manuscript Archaeology--digging without damage

The expansion of imaging and spectroscopic techniques for the analysis of cultural heritage (CH) has enabled better characterization and assessment of CH collections, especially through the use of non-invasive methods. Heritage science research data is inherently collaborative and multi-disciplinary, including scientists from a diverse range of fields – chemistry, physics, material science, engineering, and archeology etc. Multiple imaging techniques are used to create complementary datasets, and portable instrumentation[i] has greatly increased collaboration with curatorial staff and researchers. Discovery of hidden information through spectral imaging and complementary analyses, has blossomed with the Library of Congress “go-team”, a team of heritage professionals that collaborate to answer scholarly questions and characterize materials with a suite of portable non-invasive instruments. The approach is to focus on mapping the spectroscopic response of materials through spectral imaging, and extending active and deep learning through point source analyses. Understanding the benefits and limitations of specific instrumental techniques is important for assessing complex and composite material objects while utilizing complementary techniques that build up layers of deep learning about the materiality of a given object. Data fusion of these data sets is augmented by extensive scientific reference sample collections that allow correlation between destructive micro-analytical testing and non-invasive techniques. In addition to discovery, detecting changes due to exposure of historic documents to environment, treatments and exhibition requires a careful assessment of the change in spectral response over time.

[i] Portable and lab-based instruments include multispectral imaging (reflectance, transmitted and raking) as the baseline mapping of the object, Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) – diffuse and reflectance, X-Ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) point and linescan, Fiber Optic Reflectance Spectropscopy (FORS), 3D fluorescence spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and other specific techniques that best relate to the material type.

Fenella France

Currently the chief of the Preservation Research and Testing Division at the Library of Congress, Dr. France engages with a range of cultural heritage institutions – libraries, archives, museums, art galleries and historic houses – to advance that agenda.  She is an international specialist on environmental deterioration to cultural objects, focusing on links between mechanical properties and chemical changes from environmental damage and treatments. In the past decade she has been an advocate for the development of non-invasive techniques, especially spectral imaging and image processing to increase collaboration and links between scientific and scholarly data. She received her Ph.D from Otago University, New Zealand and MBA from Deakin University, Australia. After lecturing at Otago, she was the research scientist for the Star-Spangled Banner project at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Dr. France has worked on a diverse range of heritage projects including the World Trade Centre Artifacts, Pre-Columbian mummies and textiles, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the 1507 Waldseemüller World Map, and strongly supports exhibition and lighting standards for the preservation of cultural heritage. With nearly three decades of experience, she serves on a range of standards and professional committees for cultural heritage preservation and maintains close links and collaborations with colleagues from academic, cultural, forensic and federal institutions.

In February 2016 Dr. France was appointed a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Distinguished Presidential Fellow and in that role has expanded her engagement with dissertation and postdoctoral fellows. She is currently PI on a Mellon-funded research project to scientifically assess the current state of the condition of print materials in USA research libraries. Current and previous international collaborations include: Collections Demography, SEAHA center for doctoral training, COST initiatives, Chair of US-Italy Bilateral Agreement for Cultural Heritage, Beast2Craft Biocodicology project, CHaNGE – Cultural Heritage Analysis for New Generations, and An Open Book / Silk Road (Toronto University). Other collaborative activities include dissertation and postdoctoral research projects, mentoring and training.