'Collections Demography' On Dynamic Evolution of Populations of Objects

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Bartlett Sch of Graduate Studies


Collections of heritage objects have a specifically dynamic evolution: they constantly grow and constantly degrade depending on use, environment and material properties. Understanding of this dynamics is currently lacking, yet it could significantly optimise of collection management. To achieve this, the project poses several fundamental research questions:
- How to explain collections as dynamic populations?
- What is the relationship between an object and a group of objects (collection)?
- How to describe the demographics (changes in a population over time) of collections in relation to age, use, environmental influences and values we attach to heritage?
Significant reference points in an object's life need to be defined, particularly the 'point of failure', therefore, a philosophical framework defining (un)acceptable levels of damage is necessary. Given the extent of knowledge and existing data collected in the last decade for paper-based objects, this project will largely focus on library and archival collections.
Demographic statistical tools will be exploited to model changes in populations of objects. The established functions of change based on agents such as environment, use and inherent properties of objects will be overlaid on existing and new collections survey data (census data). The main output, the demographic model will be informed and interpreted through an overarching framework of cultural values. This management tool will, therefore, be based on a holistic understanding of the value of collections.
The Collection Demography proposal is ideally nested within the theme Nature of Transformation. Beside focussing on material agents of change, the proposal principally examines the transformation of cultural values over time and addresses the culturally-driven question with scientific tools. Appropriate computational tools will be developed to interpret the demography of historic collections. Exploration of the effects of environmental change on collections also addresses the Resilience and Adaptation theme. Despite the project's focus on archival and library collections, the outcomes of this research project will have application to all cultural heritage collections. The rich interdisciplinarity arising from the collaboration of art historians, conservators, heritage managers, environmental, building and material scientists, and statisticians strongly supports the goals of the Science and Heritage Programme. The cooperation between the higher and non-education sectors will help to diminish sector fragmentation and build the much needed capacity in full alignment with the Programme goals.
The wider relevance of the project has been stressed at many recent fora: 62 expert participants in the Science & Heritage Programme Research Cluster 'Environmental Guidelines: Opportunities or Risks' (EGOR) strongly stressed the need for tools integrating the relationships between people, collections and environment. The project will also provide arguments in the BSI/CEN debates on new environmental standards and guidelines. The CATCH22 Cluster (Cultural Encounters and Explorations) was largely based on debates linking change and damage as an issue still widely unknown.
A number of facilitated public and expert engagement workshops are planned to explore the values attached to objects and collections. Dissemination is planned through two international workshops, refereed publications posters, interactive project website with video information and printed materials. The collaborating partners will organise an international conference on value, material and environmental change in relation to heritage collections. The heritage partners will also review their collection management policies in line with project outputs.
The project partners are UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University of East Anglia, UCL Department of Statistics, The national Archives (UK), English Heritage and The Library of Congress (USA).

Planned Impact

The Collections Demography project is extremely end-user oriented and will undoubtedly influence internal management policies in major partner heritage organisations: The National Archives (UK), English Heritage and the Library of Congress (USA). This will ensure that the project outcomes are taken up by heritage organisations and thus a global impact on heritage management will be achieved and the quality of access to heritage improved. As well as immediate benefits, long-term impacts can also be foreseen:
- New interdisciplinary research communities. The pronounced interdisciplinarity of the project will set a new paradigm in heritage science and influence practitioner communities, policy makers, conservation professionals, and managers of cultural heritage collections.
- Impact on the Science and Heritage Programme. The project will have a strong impact on the Programme through capacity building: the strong collaboration between higher education sector and heritage sector institutions, including international institutions, promises the fragmentation to be overcome.
- Science and Heritage Programme legacy. The project will build over and above the outcomes of two Collaborative Research Studentships, and thus represent an early example of the importance and influence of the research supported by the Programme.
- Impact on internal policies. The heritage partners will, on the basis of project outcomes, review their internal collection management policies. This will set an example for other heritage end-users.
- Impact on standards and guidelines. The developed model will enable a review of the existing environmental and material management standards and guidelines to be undertaken, as it will provide arguments on benefits of particular management options.
- Knowledge transfer. The project will have a strong impact on the practitioner communities, as it aligns with research agendas of S&H Research Clusters Catch 22, and EGOR: Environmental Guidelines Opportunities or Risks and will take further the outcomes of these Clusters particularly in the areas of environmental management and the public understanding of managing cultural heritage collections.
- Improving the quality of public services. Through better management, better access to heritage collections will be enabled thus improving the quality of public services.
- Improving the quality of life. There has been considerable discussion in recent times of how in our target driven culture one can ensure excellence in the cultural heritage sector. The improved understanding of the relationship of cultural heritage and improving quality of life has been the subject of much debate in recent years.
- Improving economic performance. Through optimised collection management, including management of the environment, the energy demands for storage and access may well be decreased and thus the economic and energy performance of buildings housing heritage collections significantly improved. This may have important economic consequences, particularly taking into account climate change predictions in the long term.
- Business opportunities. The climate and pollution predictions may require more comprehensive environmental monitoring in the future, including monitoring of pollutants, which can presently not be monitored due to the non-availability of appropriate sensors. The project may underpin new developments in the sensors and monitoring industry.


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Title Samuel Keyte: Series of Lithographs Exploring Artwork Decay 
Description The series of lithographs by Samuel Keyte (2011) explores decay as an integral part of an artwork. As part of the collaboration between the artist and the researchers, quickly degrading inks were produced and printed, leading to rapid degradation of the artwork, which was then additionally degraded in an accelerated manner, leading to a series of artificially degraded prints around which a narrative could be developed exploring change and decay. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2011 
Impact The series of prints was used as part of an exhibition at the Central St. Martins School of Art as well as at UCL as part of the exhibition "Ink". 
Description The research project integrated arts&humanities, materials and environmental research into long-term heritage collection care.
Based on a substantial body of published research on collection materials and environments, the significant need to understand the dynamics of change on the level of collections was addressed and evidence was interpreted through the lens of values stakeholders attach to heritage.
We explored new methodologies of assessing the value of objects in the context of different uses of collections, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to understand long-term stakeholder expectations in relation to collection care.
We performed research to understand interactions between the environment and paper-based collections, and developed new quantitative relationships ('isoperms') linking permanence with environmental data and inherent material properties. We explored the accumulation of wear and tear, thus enabling collection managers to assess the effect of physical use of collections on the accumulation of damage.
The dynamics of these processes is captured quantitatively in models called 'isochrones', describing the expected collection lifetimes.
We undertook research to understand the effect of climate change on collections, demonstrated on two case studies: Brodsworth Hall (English Heritage) and The National Archives, Kew.
The environmental, materials and value research provided evidence to inform the development of a comprehensive collection demographic model. This tool informs the development of holistic collection management guidelines.
Exploitation Route The project outcomes may be of use to the following beneficiaries:
(i) Collection managers may use the scientific evidence and models to inform the development of environmentally and socially sustainable environmental management guidelines for use in their institutions, in line with publicly available standards such as the BSI PAS 198, which has been developed in parallel with Collections Demography.
(ii) Public engagement teams in heritage institutions may use the Collections Demography methods to engage visitors and users of heritage collections in more wide-ranging discussions about the future of heritage.
(iii) Heritage scientists may use the Collections Demography models (isoperms and isochrones) as well as data, and apply them to collections and materials other than paper and library and archival collections. Additionally, heritage scientists may find methods of social science research, such as factor analysis used in the context of heritage science in the Collections Demography for the first time, of interest.
(iv) Environmental scientists may be able to use downscaled climate change data for the two case study sites, as well as data on the interaction of pollutants with paper-based collections.
(v) Material scientists may be able to use models of degradation of materials as well as the research techniques we used, in research into the stability of other material types, particularly where the public is a strong stakeholder.
(vi) The public will be able to enjoy interaction with heritage collections for longer, and in a more sustainable manner. The project engaged almost 900 members of the public (users of libraries and archives) in the research, which was a significant achievement in itself.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/heritage/research/research-projects/projects/collections-demography
Description The evidence and the models produced in the course of the project have found use in the following sectors: (i) Heritage collection management: the Collections Demography models have informed more sustainable and holistic collection management in archives and libraries, providing the evidence base for balancing access and preservation, and enabling the prioritisation of environmental variables that could lead to a beneficial effect in relation to long-term protection. The project also provided the first evidence to support the implementation of the BSI PAS 198 guideline for collection environmental management. This has increased the quality of public service, but also increased the effectiveness of resource use in the public sector. (ii) Education: the evidence produced by the project, as well as the data and models, have been used to successfully deliver a range of workshops for heritage practitioners in collaboration with CyMAL, the Smithsonian Institution, Nationaal Archief (The Netherlands) and the Library of Congress. The materials are also used for teaching at courses at University College London. This will lead to increased quality of the public service. (iii) Better preservation of heritage collections will lead to its improved appreciation by the general public. The project itself engaged ~900 visitors and users of heritage in discussions exploring long-term attitudes to heritage collections and their preservation, and its outcomes will continue to benefit users of heritage through better and more sustainable preservation of cultural heritage, thus increasing the quality of life. (iv) The project outcomes have been used to develop research projects supported by industry, particularly the sensors and instrumentation industry and instrumentation industry. The interest of these companies in the project results is in that the developed concepts and models could be commercially exploited, which will lead to increased competitiveness. Several such projects have been developed through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description PAS
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a guidance/advisory committee
Impact The evidence produced by the Collections Demography project fed into the development of the BSI PAS198 "Specification for managing environmental conditions for cultural collections" guideline, which is now used globally to sustainably manage environments during storage, display and transport of heritage collections.
URL http://shop.bsigroup.com/en/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030219669
Description EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training
Amount £4,715,727 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L016036/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 09/2022
Description Nanorestart
Amount £500,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 646063 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Horizon 2020
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2015 
End 04/2018
Title Historic Paper Reference Collection 
Description A large collections of historic papers (500+) has been assembled, characterised and documented, which can now be used as a resource for further research. Acidity, degree of polymerisation, lignin content and a variety of other properties have been measured so the collection can also be used for calibration. This collection is accessible to researchers within the institution as well as elsewhere. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Several PhD students have already started work, using this reference collection, and industrially co-funded studentships have been developed, looking at the development of Near Infrared Spectroscopy and Imaging techniques for non-destructive analysis and imaging of collection objects in libraries and archives. We also built a number of new collaborations with heritage stakeholders wishing to use such methods. 
Title Collections demography model 
Description The Collections demography model allows users to evaluate how various environmental or access variables affect the expected lifetime of collection items, in a large collection. Not unlike demographic pyramids, these models enable users to evaluate how a change in temperature or in the relative humidity of the environment, or the number of times an object is used, affects the expected lifetime of a collection. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model has been used to demonstrate the usefulness of the BSI PAS198 environmental guidance, as developed by a number of cultural institutions in the UK, with the purpose of developing more holistic and sustainable practices of collection management in heritage institutions. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCvbZTQljQE&list=PLN1qgCLlJmUab1-CbTfX6gtXxTxH2QM-F&index=4
Title Isochrone model 
Description An isochrone is a computation model linking combinations of values of variables affecting the lifetime of an object/material/item that lead to equal expected lifetime of that object/material/item. In order to develop an isochrone, a damage function needs to be developed and to do so, extensive environmental and materials research is needed, as well as a stakeholder consultation to find out the point at which the object/material/otem is no longer fit for use. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model has been used in a number of research projects subsequently, such as the EU FW6 project Climate for Culture, as well as in a number of PhD projects. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCvbZTQljQE&list=PLN1qgCLlJmUab1-CbTfX6gtXxTxH2QM-F&index=4
Description CYMRU 
Organisation Government of Wales
Department CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution A workshop was organised for CyMAL to discuss the main outcomes of the Collections Demography project. This was useful by way of gathering further feedback on the results.
Collaborator Contribution Workshop organisation, management of participants and distribution of information.
Impact The workshop may be repeated in the future.
Start Year 2013
Description DNA 
Organisation National Archives of the Netherlands
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Collections Demography team collaborated with the National Archives to develop a PhD project which was aligned with the Collections Demography project, and was funded by Nationaal Archief.
Collaborator Contribution The partner provided intellectual input and supervision, participated at project meetings, as well as financially supported the research.
Impact A PhD Thesis, but also more broadly, knowledge on the effect of indoor and outdoor generated pollutants on archival collections was generated.
Start Year 2011
Description GEM-CC 
Organisation Grand Egyptian Museum
Country Egypt 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In the frame of the partnership, a workshop and s conference has been organised to intensify knowledge transfer as well as to obtain feedback on the research performed in the frame of Collections Demography
Collaborator Contribution Workshop organisation, distribution of promotion materials, engagement with conservators
Impact Data to complement Collections Demography models.
Start Year 2013
Description Gilden Photonics 
Organisation Gilden Photonics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We developed a PhD studentship project looking at hyperspectral imaging of Islamic Paper, for which we developed EU funding. We contributed the knowledge of historic paper and ink, as well as collection management, and the knowledge of data collection and analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Gilden Photonics contribute to the studentship project through supervision of the student, as well as by providing advice on the technical aspects of imaging.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary (conservation, collection care, technical imaging, statistics). The collaboration will result in new methods of hyperspectral data analysis for the purpose of conservation of Islamic paper, as well as in new material characterisation methods. It has also led to intensified collaboration with Egyptian partners (GEM-CC).
Start Year 2014
Description Lichtblau 
Organisation Lichtblau e.K.
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution On the basis of Collections Demography research, collaboration with the company Lichtblau e.K. was established to explore the use of the instruments they produce in surveys of large collections.
Collaborator Contribution The partner company will support a PhD scholarship with in the frame of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology.
Impact No outputs yet as the project just started in 2014/15.
Start Year 2012
Description LoC 
Organisation Library of Congress
Department Preservation Directorate
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The research team collaborated with the Library of Congress to develop a case study involving users and volunteers at the LoC, and based on this data an international picture about the attitudes of users to collections was developed.
Collaborator Contribution Management of users and visitors across two sites, data collection, participation at meetings.
Impact Academic papers and presentations, as well as guidance on environmental management for collections.
Start Year 2010
Description SI 
Organisation Smithsonian Institution
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution A workshop was organised at the Smithsonian, and a project proposal was jointly developed with the Museum Conservation Institute.
Collaborator Contribution The Museum Conservation Institute provided intellectual input and supervision, as well as continue to provide access to collections, data and expertise in the frame of the ongoing PhD research project.
Impact A PhD Thesis will be finished in 2018, looking at modelling tools for collection management.
Start Year 2010
Description Collections Demography Colloquium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The one-day colloquium brought together and summarized the research performed in the frame of Collections Demography. Eight talks were organised with lots of discussion, covering the range of topic addressed in the project. In addition, we organised four workshops, focussing on various practical research aspects of the project such as modelling and environmental assessment. This resulted in very intensive discussions between researchers, practitioners and decision makers in heritage institutions. To increase the reach, the colloquium was filmed and made available on YouTube.

The Colloquium was attended by more than 50 decision makers from the UK, EU and US, with representatives of Heads of Conservation or Heads of Research from heritage institutions. This resulted in several invitations to organise similar discussions and workshops, e.g. in the Rijksmuseum, the Smithsonian Institution, as well as for CYMRU. The Smithsonian Institution has used the evidence provided to change the internal collection management guidelines, and so have the National Archives, UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaObm6D0Sn8&list=PLN1qgCLlJmUab1-CbTfX6gtXxTxH2QM-F
Description CyMAL workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The two day workshop, organised at the National Library of Wales, looked at decision making for the purpose of collection care in heritage organisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
Description LoC Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a 1-day workshop on the topic of Collections Demography in collaboration with the Library of Congress aimed at presentation of the main findings of the project. Very useful feedback was obtained and this also led to development of further public engagement activities in collaboration with the Library of Congress and other institutions in Washington DC.

As a result of this activity, a research proposal was developed in collaboration with a German company (Lichtblau e.K.), which is now a funded scholarship project in the frame of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description SI Invited lecture: On the Lifetime of Collections 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop led to very useful discussions on sustainable collection management which are ongoing.

The workshop and the invited talk sealed the collaboration between UCL and the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute, which later led to development of a funded research programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013