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

Unit(s) of assessment: General Engineering

Research theme: Global Heritage: Science, Management and Development

School: School of Science and Technology


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.

Global Heritage Showcase


  • ISAAC Mobile Lab was at St Barnabas’ Cathedral in Nottingham on 22nd October 2018 as a warm up session for the upcoming Heritage Lottery Funded project
  • Professor Liang visited Shaan Xi Archaeological Institute and the Liu Jia Wa archaeological site,  Shaan Xi History Museum, Northwest University in Xi’an, Shanghai Museum and Shanghai University in China in September 2018
  • Professor Liang was invited to talk about the collaborative project with DunHuang academy at the “The 3rd Silk Road International Cultural Expo Special Forum, The Alliance on Technological Innovations of Cultural Heritage along the Silk Road” in Dunhuang in September 2018
  • Three members of ISAAC team attended LACONA XII in Paris, PhD student Yu Li presented a poster on remote Raman spectroscopy at stand-off distances which won the best poster prize, PhD student Margaret Read gave a talk on Multi-wavelength OCT and vitreous objects, Professor Liang gave an invited talk on OCT
  • Professor Liang was invited to give a talk on OCT at the Gordon Research Conference in July 2018
  • Professor Liang was invited to give a keynote talk at the Gordon Research Seminar in July 2018
  • Margaret Read presented a poster on OCT imaging of Enamels at ENAMEL 2018: 7th Experts' Meeting on Enamel on Metal Conservation in June 2018 in Stuttgart
  • 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 provided access to the Abbey Library of Saint Gall in Switzerland (part of a UNESCO world heritage site together with Abbey of St Gall) to image a medieval manuscript of astronomical interest. This trip was funded by the Centre for Theoretical Astrophysics and Cosmology, University of Zurich. MSci Physics student Luke Butler assisted 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.” January 2018

Related Staff

ISAAC staff

Head of the Group

Professor Haida Liang

Research Fellows

  • Dr Sammy Cheung
  • Dr Sotiria Kogou
  • Dr Alexandra Vichi
  • Dr Florence Liggins

Research Students

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


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

Related projects

Our archaeology, art history and conservation related projects take the research team across the globe, to galleries, museums and heritage sites.  We have worked on a number of projects at internationally-renowned sites, from our European projects at the V&A, the Louvre in Paris and Fondation Beyeler, Switzerland, to American sites such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Getty Conservation Institution (GCI) in LA. We have also visited several sites throughout China, such as the Shaan Xi History Museum, the Dunhuang Research Academy and the National Museum of China in Beijing. Visit our Projects page for more information on our work.