UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage



Our laboratory spaces across UCL’s Bloomsbury and Here East campuses support our research and teaching, housing equipment for or staff and students to study historical objects and environments.

Discover our laboratories and the equipment they hold:

Heritage Science Laboratory 

Our Heritage Science Laboratory on the Bloomsbury campus offers 100m2 of lab space for studying historic objects and environments. The laboratory specialises in portable and transportable equipment that it can be used in real heritage environments. The lab hosts the unique Hyperspectral Imaging setup for objects from 1 cm2 to entire building facades. There are also facilities for GC/MS, artificial degradation experiments, spectroscopic analysis, environmental monitoring, and much more.

Our Bloomsbury Heritage Science Laboratory hosts equipment for studying:

Material characterisation

We use infrared (IR) and near infrared (NIR) spectrometry, colourimetry for measurements of colour change, and profilometry for measurements of surface roughness. 

Our equipment includes:
•    Bruker Alpha FTIR (ATR, DRIFT and transmission) Spectrometer
•    PHAZIR handheld NIR Spectrometer
•    Labspec 5000 fibre-optics based NIR Spectrometer
•    Innowep Traceit Optical Profilometer
•    X-Rite 530 Colourimeter

Environmental characterisation

Our capabilities include measurements of various traffic and indoor generated pollutants, and emissions from materials using a bench top gas chromatograph and a portable mass spectrometer. We can also undertake long-term environmental monitoring.

Our equipment includes:
•    Perkin Elmer Clarus 500 gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer with a Gerstel automated headspace sampler and an Automated Thermal Desorption unit
•    ppbRAE 3000 total-VOC Meter
•    KORE MS-200 Portable Mass Spectrometer
•    HOBO dataloggers T/RH/light
•    Teledyne API Sulfur Dioxide M100 meter and logger
•    Teledyne API Ozone M400 meter and logger
•    Teledyne API Nitrogen Oxide M200 meter and logger
•    PPM Technology Formaldemeter
•    Gradko DC1100 particle monitors (1.0 & 5.0 and 0.5 & 2.5 um)
•    SKC 5-pump active air sampling kit (particles and pollutants)
•    Senceive FLATMESH Wireless sensor networks with the following sensing capabilities: temperature, relative humidity, UV light, visible light, RGB light, formaldehyde, total volatile organic compounds, dust. This network was developed in the Heritage Intelligence project.

Material degradation

The institute has several reactors available for studies in well-defined environmental conditions (T, RH, pollutant concentration) and the following equipment for analysis.

Our equipment includes:
•    VICI Metronics Dynacalibrator 150 Calibrated air pollutant source
•    Instruquest, V-Gen Model 1 Calibrated Air humidifier
•    Ageing chambers
•    Fume hood
•    Viscometry measurement setup
•    Metrohm pH-meter
•    Analytical balance

The laboratory also houses an archive of reference historic sample materials, including European, Islamic and Chinese paper, modern and contemporary heritage objects and historic photographs, invaluable sources of study materials for collaborative, doctoral and Masters projects.

Reference sample archive:

Collections of sacrificial historic materials are stored in controlled conditions (4 °C) for future research.

Our sample archive includes:

  • Plastic (collection of several 100, from 19th century historic to modern plastics)
  • Parchment (collection of ~50, 16th - 20th century)
  • Paper (collection of several 100, including the SurveNIR historic paper reference collection of ~1000 well-characterised samples)
  • Iron gall ink (well-characterised collection of ~80 samples of 19th and 20th century inks)
  • Colour photographs (collection of ~2000, ~100 well characterised samples)

Under certain conditions, the collections may be made available for research purposes. To enquire, please email Matija Strlic (Professor of Heritage Science): m.strlic@ucl.ac.uk

Mobile Heritage Laboratory 

A unique research vehicle that enables scientific research as well as engagement with the public and professionals in museums, heritage and archaeological sites across the UK. The equipment covers different areas of heritage science interest, such as environmental monitoring, imaging and chemical analysis and is available to any institution or organisation that wishes to propose a project.

Our Mobile Heritage Laboratories equipment includes:

•    Air Particle Counter (Gradko International - DC1100 and DC1700)
•    Digital Microscope (Keyence-VHX 5000)
•    Formaldemeter
•    Glossmeter
•    Environmental loggers
•    Hot Wire Anemometer
•    Infrared Reflectography Camera
•    Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera
•    Mobile Light Spectrometer
•    Near Infrared Spectrometer
•    Optical Profilometer - Surface Roughness Scanner
•    pH Meter 
•    Portable Mass Spectrometer 
•    SO2/NOx/O3 Loggers and Meters 
•    Spectrodensiometer colorimeter X-RITE 
•    Ultrafine Particle Counter 
•    Universal Air Sampling Pump 
•    USB 400x Digital Microscope
•    UV Lamp  
•    UV Torch 
•    UV-VIS and Near Infrared Spectrometer 
•    VOC (volatile organic compounds) Handheld Sensor 
•    UVA/B Light Meter

Download a list of equipment with details of functionality

The Mobile Heritage Lab is a joint venture of University College London, the University of Oxford and the University of Brighton, and it is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology Centre for Doctoral Training (SEAHA CDT).

Find out more are apply for a visit on the SEAHA CDT website

Here East Heritage Science Laboratory 

Our Here East Laboratory is home to an imaging lab, where we have a number of systems for 2D and 3D imaging. Our main system is our hyperspectral imaging system for which we have several cameras, support frames and light sources which we can use flexibly depending on the application. The cameras cover the spectral range from 380 nm to 2500 nm and the frames include a 2.5m x 2.5m static art scanner, a robotic arm and various portable devices.

We have imaged:

  • La Ghirlandata (pictured) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti held by the Guildhall Art Gallery as part of a major restoration project
  • Manuscripts held by UCL Special Collections 
  • A range of materials including tapestries, various types of paper and parchment

Our Here East facilities also host environmental aging chambers are used for long-term aging of samples as part of studies involving analysis of degradation.