Newcastle Material Culture Analytical Suite

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of History, Classics and Archaeology

Abstract

NeMCAS is a vision developed in partnership between the Great North Museum: Hancock (GNM) and Newcastle University, with support from regional parterns such as English Heritage and the Hadrian's Wall museums and visitor centres. NeMCAS will be a focal point for our research and impact under heritage science, and for working with creative practitioners on creating content inspired by collections, and supporting pathways to innovation. It will facilitate the full process of research, analysis, recording, conservation and display of material culture and collections held across the north-east, and will be accessible to the wider research community within the UK, Europe and beyond. Newcastle has world leading facilities and expertise in heritage science and digital imaging, organised through four centres (NU Digital Heritage, McCord Centre, MATCH, NuCoRE Heritage). NeMCAS will upgrade key items of equipment currently located with the School of History Classics and Archaeology (Newcastle University) and the Great North Museum (Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives) and provide an umbrella for our facilities, spanning materials analysis and visualisation for archaeology and heritage.
The University has invested heavily in staff and capital over the past 5-10 years, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to research that falls under the Heritage strategic priority. Our numbers have tripled over the past 5 years, and capacity to grow is now limited; our expanding numbers have put significant pressure on the microscopes we have, and a reliance on equipment in Engineering for chemical analysis that is not optimised for archaeological materials. NeMCAS will enable us to expand our existing research capabilities including emerging methods not widely available in the UK. In partnership with the Great North Museum, improved collections digitisation will support global research, provide content for creative industry and potentially support income through monetised assets.
The project comprises four packages: the microscope suite, spectroscopy suite, 2D&3D scanning suite, and X-ray suite. We propose to upgrade three of our most heavily used research microscopes to more advanced models with greater automation and higher resolution imaging capabilities. This will reduce the time taken to analyse samples, and provide greater detail on the use wear traces of metals, ceramics, bone and more, enchancing research outputs and enabling greater sample throughput. We propose to aquire a LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) system as an 'add on' module to one of these microscopes. This alternative method for determining the chemical composition of objects will enable us to carry out microscopic and chemical analysis simultaneously, rather than relying on SEM facilities in Engineering, which are not optimised for archaeological materials and incur usage fees. Reducing the steps in the analytical process, and being able to carry this out all in one lab space, will vastly reduce time taken per sample. We propose to upgrade our 2D & 3D scanning equipment to newer systems which will expand the size range of objects that can be scanned, providing the full spectrum from very small objects such as beads, to large architecture and monuments in excess of 160,000cm3. Finally, the addition of a microCT scanner to our facilities will enable 3D non-destructive imaging through 'slices' of objects to 'see inside' the object and reveal the internal features. There are few systems in the UK that are suitable for large objects as required in collections based research, and none of these are located in the north. This will step change our archaeological materials research, and provide a new UK facility that we envisage will lead to exciting new collaborations with partners in the UK and internationally.

Publications

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