Dr Emma Richardson
Emma is Associate Professor of Materials and Metrology and Head of the Material Studies Laboratory. She is currently the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2016-2018) Investigating Cellulose Derivative and their Environmental Response.
She received her PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Southampton in 2009, and subsequently took the position of Post-doctoral Fellow at the Getty Conservation Institute (2009-2012). Since joining the Department of History of Art in 2012 she has attracted over £500,000 of funding for laboratory equipment and research.
She has recently co-curated the exhibition Dangerous Diaries: Exploring Risks and Rewards in Fabrication, which forms part of a larger collaborative research project with the Institute of Making, which studies the perceptions of risk and how approaches to hands-on engagement with materials have changed over time.
Office: 303, 20 Gordon Square
Office hours: Monday 1-2pm and Tuesday 4-5pm
+44 (0)20 3108 4017 (internal 54017)
Associate Professor of Materials and Metrology
Chair of the Board of Examiners
Material Studies Laboratory Manager
Dept of History of Art
Faculty of S&HS
Characterization and conservation of synthetic polymers, mechanical properties of textiles and films, and the in situ analysis of artefacts
The overarching focus of Emma's research is the study of organic polymers in heritage collections, both natural and synthetic. In recent years she has focused her attention on the manufacture, identification and degradation of synthetic polymers with a view to informing contemporary conservation practice. Often employed in modern and contemporary artworks, these materials can be present in many forms such as textiles, films, foams, castings and paint layers. Her most recent interests include the use of unilateral NMR relaxometry to study the migration of moisture into archival film materials and paint structures.
Presently, she is Principal Investigator on a collaborative research project with the British Film Institute funded by The Leverhulme Trust. This project is directed at understanding the relationship between the moisture sorption and eventual degradation of cellulose derivative films, and their plasticizer and additive compositions. The research is investigating the factors that affect plasticizer loss, and the impact this has on properties such as moisture sorption and mechanical integrity. Moisture plays an integral role in the deacatylation reaction of cellulose derivatives, therefore understanding which materials may be more vulnerable to penetration is key for collections management and treatment prioritization.
Emma recently completed a three-year collaborative project funded by English Heritage and the Royal Society of Chemistry Assessing the Impact of LED Lighting on Pigments and Paper in Heritage Collections. Emma was also Co-Curator of the exhibition Dangerous Diaries, which opened at the Octagon Gallery, UCL, 2015. This exhibition formed one strand of a larger collaboration with the Institute of Making focusing on the risks and rewards of making and fabrication. This project involves archival research, oral history interviews and collaboration with artists and making enthusiasts: http://dangerousdiariesblog.tumblr.com.
Prior to joining UCL in 2012, Emma was the recipient of a Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) Postdoctoral Fellowship where she worked within the Modern and Contemporary Art Research. She advanced her research by overseeing the first stage of the collaborative project between the GCI and Disney Animation Research Library. The projects aim was to investigate both the chemical and physical degradation mechanisms of cellulose ester animation cels, the results of which have been published in a number of peer reviewed articles. This project is still ongoing and Emma now sits on the advisory panel for Disney Animation Research Library.
During her time at the GCI, Emma worked extensively on the region-wide Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980 initiative, encompassing over sixty cultural institutions documenting, interpreting and presenting postwar art in Southern California. She was Co-Curator of the exhibition From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine's Gray Column, which opened at the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2011, and focused on the issues surrounding the making, conservation and display of a monumental polyester resin sculpture.
Emma was actively involved in the European Union funded Seventh Framework Programme, POPART: Preservation Of Plastic ARTifacts in museum collections (2008-2012). This project brought together the expertise and facilities of eleven academic and museum institutions, enabling interdisciplinary collaboration and research. Its results have been wide reaching and have highlighted the benefit of such research grants. As such Emma is enthusiastic to hear from potential collaborators who are interested in cross-disciplinary research.
Emma joined the Department of History of Art in 2012 as Lecturer in Material Studies, coordinator for the History of Art with Material Studies (HAMS) undergraduate programme, and the Material Studies Laboratory Manager. She is currently the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2016-2018) Investigating Cellulose Derivatives and their Environmental Response.
She received her PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Southampton in 2009, and subsequently took the position of Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Getty Conservation Institute (2009-2012). Since joining the Department of History of Art in 2012 she has attracted approximately £500,000 of funding for research and laboratory equipment.
Emma's education and research has combined both science and conservation, which has led to multidisciplinary collaborations with various institutions such as English Heritage, The National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Getty Research Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Teaching and Supervision
Conservation of Plastics in Art and Design: Establishing Cleaning Approaches
UCL Qatar Collaborative Studentship
(Co-supervisor: Dr Voula Golfomitsou)
Comparison of Painting Lining Methods for Historic House Environments
SEAHA Collaborative PhD Studentship
(Heritage Supervisor: Dr David Thickett, English Heritage and Industrial Supervisor: Dr Dave Hollis, LAVision)
Readhesion interventions on wall paintings: assessment of penetration, deposition and bond strength of organic, water-based adhesives on lime-based secondary supports
AHRC PhD Studentship
(Co-supervisors: Professor Sharon Cather and Professor Fracesca Piquè)
Dr Lora Angelova, Newton International Fellow, The Royal Society
Gel Cleaning: What is Happening at the Interface?