ISAAC Mobile Laboratory

Imaging & Sensing for Archaeology, Art History & Conservation (ISAAC)



Our research and work focuses on:

  • the development of novel non-invasive optical instruments for imaging and sensing;
  • applications of science to heritage (heritage science) including the use of our unique instruments; and
  • develop applications of our imaging instrumentation expertise to a broad range of disciplines and industries including making economic and societal impacts.

Our work on advanced optical imaging and remote sensing applied to cultural heritage in solving conservation, art history and archaeology problems for museums and cultural heritage institutes is internationally recognised as leading the field. We are unique in developing advanced non-invasive imaging systems that are not only novel in optical and remote sensing instrumentation but also novel in applications to cultural heritage. Consequently, the instruments we develop are in demand in a variety of industries. We have collaborated closely with all major cultural heritage institutes in the UK and many institutions internationally.

We are engaged in the preparatory phase for the European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) which was put on the European Roadmap in 2016. The European-wide project will see different platforms supporting the new research infrastructure, which include mobile laboratories, fixed laboratories, digital and archival facilities.

NTU's ISAAC mobile laboratory provision will contribute to E-RIHS both on the European and UK front.


Research has been conducted in collaboration with conservation scientists, conservators, archaeologists, archaeological scientists and art historians and curators from the following heritage organisations:

  • The British Museum
  • The National Gallery (London)
  • Tate
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • English Heritage
  • Historic England
  • National Trust
  • Science Museum
  • Nottingham Castle Museum
  • Birmingham Museum and Gallery
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • Historic Royal Palaces
  • Fitzwilliam Museum
  • Bodleian Library
  • Peterborough Cathedral
  • National Museum of Ireland
  • Louvre Museum and C2RMF (France)
  • LRMH (France)
  • National Museum of China
  • Shaan Xi History Museum (China)
  • Dunhuang Academy (China)
  • Getty Conservation Institution (USA)
  • Brooklyn Museum (USA)
  • Museums of New Mexico (USA)
  • Museum of International Folk Art (USA)
  • Fondation Beyeler (Switzerland)

and a range of UK and international universities, with support from

  • AHRC
  • NERC
  • RCUK
  • EU
  • HEIF
  • The Royal Society
  • Leverhulme Trust
  • English Heritage
  • The National Gallery
  • Tate
  • The British Museum
  • Science Museum
  • Fondation Beyeler
  • National Museum of Ireland
  • Dunhuang Academy
  • Bodleian Library


  • ISAAC members will contribute to 14 presentation at the Global Heritage: Science, Management and Development Research Theme showcase event on 18th May 2018.
  • ISAAC Mobile lab will provide access to St Gallen Library in Switzerland to image a medieval manuscript of astronomical interest. This trip is funded by the Centre for Theoretical Astrophysics and Cosmology, University of Zurich. Luke Butler will assist Professor Haida Liang on the data gathering at the end of May 2018.
  • In March 2018, Professor Haida Liang and Dr Sotiria Kogou took the ISAAC mobile lab to the Museum of International Folk Art (MIOF) in Santa Fe and the Getty Conservation Institute to study a collection of Chinese export paintings of Peruvian subjects at MOIFA and paintings of similar subject matter attributed to the Peruvian artist Pancho Fierro in the Getty collection. This is a collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute, MOIFA and the Museums of New Mexico-Conservation unit.
  • Professor Haida Liang was invited by the Getty Conservation Institute to attend the Microfade Tester Expert meeting in March 2018
  • Professor Haida Liang, Dr Sammy Cheung and Dr Natasha Hodgson (NTU, Medieval History) visited University of Canterbury in Christchurch (UCC), New Zealand for the Canterbury Roll Project. Access to the ISAAC mobile lab was provided to UCC as a collaborative project to examine the Canterbury Roll, the only medieval manuscript in New Zealand. The visit was broadcasted on TVNZ  6 News on the 8th Jan 2018.
  • The NTU team also participated in a digital humanities symposium on the Canterbury roll. Professor Haida Liang gave a public talk on “From the Selden Map to the Canterbury Roll – a holistic approach to scientific investigation of historic manuscripts.”
  • Non-invasive imaging of cave temple wall paintings at UNESCO world heritage site - Mogao Caves at Dunhuang in the Gobi desert. A systematic investigation of the wall paintings was conducted using automated remote multispectral imaging (PRISMS), Optical Coherence Tomography and microfading spectrometry developed by the group to deduce information on art history, history and conservation. Andrei Lucian, Sammy Cheung and Haida Liang went on the field trip to Dunhuang in July/August 2012. The work was carried out in collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy.


Instrument development

Application projects

Networks and exhibitions

Related Staff

Project Lead

Professor Haida Liang

Research Fellows: Dr Sammy Cheung, Dr Sotiria Kogou and  Alexandra Vichi

Research Assistants: Andrei Lucian and Rebecca Lange

Research Students

  • Patrick Atkinson
  • Margaret Read
  • Yu Li
  • Chris Pickup
  • Hannah Cooper-Smithson
  • Alex Hogg
  • Luke Butler
  • Rachel Jacques
  • Mixon Faluweki

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418