Newcastle University: Funding boost for cutting edge archaeological research

Heritage experts have received funding for state-of-the-art specialist equipment that will strengthen archaeological research capabilities and help to conserve important artefacts and collections.

New facilities
Working with partners at the Great North Museum: Hancock, the Newcastle Material Culture Analytical Suite (NeMCAS) will be equipped with new facilities for materials analysis, providing students, researchers and community partners access to world-class research facilities.

The new suite will provide a focal point for interdisciplinary research in material culture encompassing art and heritage studies, physical and digital technologies, scientific materials analysis and experimental archaeology.

The award of £748,000 has been made as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) £15m Capability in Collections investment, which aims to help secure the future of the UK’s galleries, libraries, archives and museums. Alongside this, a further award of £134,000 has been made from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) World Class Laboratories fund.

The project is being led by Dr Lisa-Marie Shillito, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Archaeology labs at Newcastle University. “We’re delighted to receive this funding”, said Dr Shillito. “This investment will allow us to build on our world-class expertise by enabling quicker and more in-depth analysis of the composition and use of archaeological artefacts. It will not only help us make better use of the University’s expertise in archaeological materials and digital heritage research but will also grow and develop collaborative research with our partners at other universities and heritage organisations across the UK and internationally.”

The equipment will include a new X-ray imaging suite which will help experts see the internal features of objects in a non-destructive way, particularly artefacts made from metal, bone or ceramics. There are few systems like this in the UK and none are located in the North.

The new suite will also aid chemical characterisation of objects through spectroscopy facilities that will allow compositional analysis of materials and residues using different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. It will also include a range of scanning systems that will help develop new capabilities in 3D scanning and recording.

The NeMCAS suite will be accessible to the wider heritage research community and will enable better recording, conservation and display of individual artefacts and collections held across the North-East and beyond, providing new avenues for research and public understanding of heritage.

Caroline McDonald, Executive Manager, Great North Museum: Hancock, added: “This significant investment in research capability is great news. Archaeological objects and the materials they are made from reveal so much about people in the past. The who, the what and the why of how we used to live is endlessly fascinating, and incredibly relevant to understanding ourselves today. We look forward to working with colleagues from Newcastle University to reveal the secrets held within our objects, and sharing this cutting edge university research with our audiences in engaging and fun ways.”

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