Revolutionising cultural heritage conservation

Modern digital techniques provide an innovative way to replicate and restore ancient artefacts

Traditional methods of artefact repair and restoration can be extremely time-consuming and expensive, and care needs to be taken to ensure that fragile objects are not further damaged.

Meanwhile, there is a growing understanding of the important role hands-on experience of historical objects – or replicas – has in the learning process of children and adults alike – particularly those with vision impairments.

Our research – dating back several years – is encouraging greater use of modern digital techniques by conservators to restore heritage artefacts and create replicas to increase public engagement with museum exhibitions.

Our impact

Repair and replication

  • New restoration techniques for a range of materials
  • Techniques for objects, large and small
  • Replication of artefacts for hands-on exhibitions

The research

We are helping the cultural heritage sector to maximise the benefit of emerging technologies – including 3D scanning and printing – combining them with traditional techniques to improve the preservation, curation and replication of historical artefacts.

Our work has been undertaken in collaboration with several organisations, and the nature of the projects have been varied.

Collaborations with the Palace Museum, Summer Palace Museum and Garden Museum (Beijing) have developed a new approach for the replication and restoration of artefacts, spanning objects made from stone, bronze and wood. The techniques have also been applied to fragile cloisonné, ceramic and gold-leaf objects – even sections of ancient buildings.

With archaeologists at the University of Manchester we have advanced methods for the reproduction of ancient Egyptian votive offerings. In addition, computer-aided visualisation techniques and replicas for hands-on displays have been developed to help visitors – to the Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed exhibition – better understand the contents of mummies.

Research funders

  • AHRC
  • Loughborough University (Enterprise Projects Group)

Development partners

  • British Museum, London
  • Palace Museum, Beijing
  • Summer Palace Museum, Beijing
  • Garden Museum, Beijing
  • Manchester Museum, University of Manchester

Meet the experts

Photograph of Ian Campbell

Professor Ian Campbell

Professor of Computer Aided Product Design

Dr Ian Graham

Lecturer in Engineering Design

Photograph of Richard Bibb

Professor Richard Bibb

Professor of Medical Applications of Design

Photograph of Abby Paterson

Dr Abby Paterson

Lecturer in Industrial Design and Technology

Fangjin (Virginia) Zhang

PhD Researcher

Now runs her own company - Nanjing Shuwei Cultural Creative Co Ltd - and a Visiting Fellow at the University

El Webster

PhD Researcher

Commercialisation

The methods developed are applicable in areas outside of cultural heritage. For example, Nanjing Shuwei Cultural Creative has undertaken consultancy work for the Aero-Sun Engineering Art Co to build a 76 metre tall statue of a Chinese empress - a central attraction in the Huayi Brothers’ movie theme park in Suzhou, near Shanghai. The theme park is expected to attract five million visitors every year.