Beyond Heritage Science: A Review

Craig J. Kennedy, Michael Penman, David Watkinson, Nicola Emmerson, David Thickett, Frédéric Bosché, Alan Mark Forster, Josep Grau-Bové, May Cassar

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Heritage science is an established and thriving field of enquiry. Initially considered as inherently cross-disciplinary, encompassing both the needs of conservators and practitioners and the high-quality evidence produced by scientists, heritage science has, through its expansion in recent years, formed a discipline in its own right. Here, we examine how heritage science can, and to an extent has, moved beyond the straightforward scientific analysis of historical materials and artefacts through an exploration of heritage science’s interactions with four key themes: (i) historical and archival research, (ii) conservation practice, (iii) policy at governmental, organisational and institutional levels, and (iv) a view to how new technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, can shape the future of heritage science. Much of the review narrative is framed via the analysis of UK-based case studies; however, they deal with issues that are international in nature (universal) and therefore transcend the UK context. Taken together, we demonstrate that heritage science as a discipline is capable of directly instigating or (re-)framing new areas or avenues of research, as well as enhancing and feeding into existing research questions, and has adapted and evolved along with emerging technologies and funding opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1510-1538
Number of pages29
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2024


  • heritage science
  • history
  • conservation
  • policy
  • practice
  • digital technologies
  • machine learning
  • artificial intelligence
  • robotics


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