Space science and Renaissance tombs
Dr Phillip Lindley examining the Renaissance sculpted tomb-monument of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 30 November 2010
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A group of Renaissance Tomb-Monuments in Suffolk is being analysed with tools developed in Space Science, to unlock their mysterious past and offer new insights into the Tudor Reformation.
Led by the University of Leicester, this innovative Heritage Science project draws together space scientists, art-historians, archaeologists and museologists from Leicester, with historians at Oxford and Yale, and archaeologists and scientists from English Heritage.
An interdisciplinary research programme in Cultural Heritage, it is funded by a major award from the Science and Heritage Programme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The award is for £497,000 and an additional three fully-funded PhD studentships.
Principal Investigator Dr Phillip Lindley, from the University of Leicester Department of History of Art and Film, said: “Key to this programme is the innovative employment of techniques borrowed from Space Science, principally three-dimensional scanning and non-destructive materials analysis, to solve a complex set of historical, archaeological and art-historical problems.”
The researchers will first analyse the great Renaissance monuments of Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk (d. 1554) and of Henry Fitzroy (d. 1539), Duke of Richmond, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son.
Dr Lindley said: “Both monuments seem to have been dramatically altered when they were moved in the middle of the sixteenth century from their original locations in Thetford Priory to Framlingham Parish Church, where they now stand.
“Puzzlingly, pieces excavated at Thetford in the 1930s seem to have originally belonged to these monuments and this suggests that they used to look very different from what we now see.
“We shall virtually disassemble the monuments and reconstruct their original forms for the first time in half a millennium, trying to integrate the excavated fragments in our virtual reconstructions. It is as if we have two (or more) three-dimensional jigsaws: we need first to sort the pieces out and then put them back together.”
With scanning and analytical techniques borrowed from Space Science, all this can be done virtually, without even touching the monuments. Materials analysis (using XRF, RAMAN, and other non-destructive techniques) again developed for Space Science applications, will provide information about the original painted surfaces.
The project will function as a case study, adapting techniques for analysis, interpretation and display, to make them widely transferable, and to further the innovative deployment of science in the Cultural Heritage Sector.
The research project led by Dr Phillip Lindley comprises work teams in the University of Leicester departments of History of Art & Film (Dr Lindley, with Dr Jackie Hall), the Space Science Centre (Prof George Fraser), Museum Studies (Dr Ross Parry) and Computer Science (Dr Effie Law), with collaborating groups at Oxford (Dr Steve Gunn) and Yale universities (Dr Lisa Ford), and in English Heritage (Jan Summerfield, Dr Paul Bryan).
NOTES TO EDITORS
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Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Each year the AHRC provides approximately £112 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,350 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk
UK Science & Heritage Research Programme: The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are managing this research programme that runs initially, for five years. The programme is led by Programme Director, Professor May Cassar of UCL. Professor Cassar leads on the programmes development, external coordination and outreach as well as on extensive networking with the national and international research community including non-academic sectors. In addition she is also establishing the base line level of funding across all the research councils and developing a comprehensive map of recent and current research and training activity in heritage science. www.heritagescience.ac.uk
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £850m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.
The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via research Councils UK.