History of Art


Dr Tea Ghigo



 a young woman with long wavy dark hair smiles at the camera

Tea Ghigo is Lecturer in the History of Art, Materials and Technology. Her research centres on the material investigation of museum collections, with an emphasis on watercolours, painting and illuminated manuscripts.

She combines traditional archival research with material analysis using primarily non-invasive analytical methods (XRF, XRD, FORS and Raman); and uses this integrated approach to help shape new perspectives on heritage collections.

Tea focuses primarily on historical periods of great technological transition such as the Late Antiquity or the 19th century, and has a particular interest in exploring social, cultural and anthropological aspects that might have shaped specific material choices.

Contact Details

Office: 301, 20 Gordon Square 
Office Hours: Tuesdays 11:00-12:00. Book an appointment with Tea.
Email: t.ghigo@ucl.ac.uk


Lecturer in the History of Art, Materials and Technologies 
Dept of History of Art 
Faculty of S&HS

Research Themes

Materials analysis of heritage collections, Pigments and dyes, illuminated manuscripts, watercolours and paintings, 19th century England, Late Antiquity.


Tea’s research is rooted in Heritage Science, a field broadly defined as the application of natural science methodologies to the study and preservation of art and archaeological objects. Her profile sits at the crossroads between art history and material science and her research bridges traditional archival research with material analysis of heritage objects to shape a more comprehensive perspective on our past. 

Tea is particularly interested in the technical aspects of manuscripts, drawings, and paintings production and their insight into a tradition’s anthropological, socio-cultural, and economic aspects.
She explored these topics across different historical periods, while working for prestigious European projects.

Her research on the writing materials used in Late Antique Egypt pointed out a striking correlation between the type of ink used and the type of text written. Tea’s current research continues to seek an explanation to this phenomenon, by considering aspects such as papyrus recycling or scribal training.

Tea’s work also centres on aspects such as material durability or toxicity, that might have shaped material choices in the past. She is particularly interested in how the chemical stability of new pigments introduced during the industrial revolution might have affected their use by different artists. Her most current research explores the reception of these new pigments by John Ruskin in his activity as a watercolourist and art teacher.

Tea fundamentally believes in the societal value of museum collections and in the ability that material analysis have to offer fresh perspectives on our past. Therefore, she is particularly interested in leveraging these material investigations for Public Engagement purposes. She is now carrying out research, together with the University of Oxford to evaluate the impact of interdisciplinary museum narratives (including elements of science and materiality), aiming to understand better how visitors learn and engage with collections. Her long-term goal is to define a blueprint describing how scientific analytical equipment can be leveraged to optimise visitor learning. Ultimately, her vision is to leverage science to humanise museum narratives, in the hope that an increased understanding of past traditions by a broader and more diversified portion of the society will lead to enhanced cultural preservation and care.

Selected Publications

Journal articles

Tea Ghigo and Alberto Nodar Dominguez, 2023. “Oxyrhinchus papyri at Oxford: material characterisation of their inks and support”, 2023. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 15, 132.

Tea Ghigo, Michele Occhipinti, Andy Beeby, Kelly Domoney and Daniel Bone, 2023. Concerns over colour durability in the nineteenth-century industrial revolution: insights from John Ruskin’s teaching collection. Heritage Science 11, 168.

Tea Ghigo, Daniel Bone, David Howell, Kelly Domoney, Michele Gironda and Andrew Beeby, 2022. “Material characterisation of William Burges’ Great Bookcase within the disruption of a global pandemic” Studies in Conservation

Tea Ghigo, María Jesús Albarrán Martínez, 2021. “The practice of writing inside an Egyptian monastic settlement: preliminary material characterisation of the inks used on Coptic manuscripts from the Monastery of Apa Apollo at Bawit” Heritage Science 9: 62.

Tea Ghigo, Ira Rabin, Paola Buzi, 2020. “Black Egyptian inks in Late Antiquity: new insights into their manufacture and use” Journal of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 12:70.

Essays, Chapters and Conference proceedings

Tea Ghigo, 2023. “Materials in Focus: The Great Bookcase between Medieval and Victorian Colours”, The Colour Revolution (Exhibition Catalogue), Ashmolean Museum.

Tea Ghigo, 2023. “Colour matters: reading the materiality of the Great Bookcase” in William Burges’s Great Bookcase and the Victorian Colour Revolution, Yale University Press.

Tea Ghigo, Sofía Torallas, 2020. “Between literary and documentary practice: The Montserrat Codex Miscellaneus and the material investigation of its inks” in Proceedings of the Third International PAThs Conference, 101-113.

Tea Ghigo, Ira Rabin, 2019. “Archaeometric study of inks from Coptic manuscripts in the collection of the Apostolic Vatican Library” in Detecting early medieval Coptic literature in Dayr Al-Anba Maquar. Between textual conservation and literary rearrangement: The case of Vat.Copt. 57, Studi e testi, pp. 77-83.

Museum Exhibitions

Pigments Revealed: Ruskin’s quest for durable colour- Audio-visual and graphic display (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 2023-24) showcasing the combination of archival research and material analyses to explore 19-century pigments’ stability and durability.

Reading the Materiality of the Great Bookcase - Section of the exhibition The Colour Revolution (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 2023-24) with audio-visual content on the pigments used on the Burges’ Great Bookcase and their historical and cultural contextualisation.

The inks from the manuscripts of Thi(ni)s - Section of the exhibition Archeologia Invisibile (Egyptian Museum, Turin 2019-20) with audio-visual and content on the material analysis of the papyri from Thi(ni)s


Teaching and Supervision

Tea teaches undergraduate modules of science and materiality, including:
Introduction to Art and Science
Methodologies of Making
Materials and methods of artists

Tea is interested in hearing from potential PhD candidates interested in exploring the material composition of heritage objects, with particular reference to manufacturing methods of pigments, manuscripts and paintings across different historical periods.

Prospective students should contact her directly to discuss their proposals at: t.ghigo@ucl.ac.uk


Tea trained as a Heritage Scientist in Italy and worked as a researcher for a prestigious European Research Council project during her PhD (Archaeometry), which she obtained as a joint title from the University of Hamburg and the University of Rome la Sapienza in 2020. She was a Research Heritage Scientist at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford until 2023, where she again worked on EU-funded research. In 2021, she authored a project that was awarded the Seal of Excellence from the European Commission under the MSCA programme, and was later funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Tea is a Research Fellow at Linacre College at Oxford, and serves as a reviewer of project proposals submitted to the Cultural Heritage panel at the ISIS laboratory. She joined UCL in September 2023.