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Name: Chris Pickup

PhD: Cultural and Museum Studies

Thesis Title: From Science to Exhibition: Research, Imaging and Interpretation in the Heritage Sector


This PhD research explores scientific and conservation-based research activity within our museums. It proposes that museums are either ‘research-enabled’ or ‘non-research-enabled’ and this subdivision has a profound effect on the nature and practice of scientific research within those establishments. It proposes that 3D documentation, animation and film can be used to motivate non-research-enabled museums to explore object biography through this research activity, creating a powerful tool for public engagement. However, it also offers the provocation that the relationship between a research enabler (e.g. academic researcher) and non-research-enabled end user is complex and problematic if not handled with co-productive skill.

A research-enabled museum is one that has the funding and remit to carry out scientific research into its collection. However, this represents only a percentage of the holders of our nation’s material culture. Many museums based within our regions have no such remit and are focused on public engagement. This is problematic, as only scientific research that can deliver a public engagement output is viable. It is also the case that many of these museums no longer support the facility and staffing to engage in scientific research activity. However, universities are interested in research being impactful to meet the needs of the REF. This has produced an increased interest in reaching wider audiences through research and suggests the potential for a symbiotic relationship. The university provides research-enablement to a non-research-enabled museum with both stakeholders wanting public engagement. 

A case study was established, researching items from the collection of Nottingham Museum and Art Gallery with research-enablement provided by Nottingham Trent University’s heritage science unit ISAAC. This allowed the team to experience the challenges of delivering a rigorous scientific output and then presenting that to the end user as a relevant public engagement (Mind the Gap: Dillon et al 2014). This case study enabled an investigation of the different motivations and barriers for the two stakeholders that did not automatically align. A level of symbiosis was achieved by employing 3D animation and film to communicate the research process and provide a public engagement platform for it. The investigation then embarked on a programme of interviews with professionals outside the case study to contextualise the research. The overall conclusions now being reached are that many difficulties are generated by a lack of empathy between the academic and museum environments which is surmountable but requires substantial co-productive management skill and planning.


Supervisors and Institution(s): Dr. DuncanGrewcock (NTU), Prof Haida Liang (NTU), Dr Andrew Gritt (NTU).


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

year: 2016

  • Attended SEAHA heritage science conference, Oxford University
  • Attended SEAHA heritage science seminars, Oxford University
  • Attended multi-spectral imaging training Bodleian Library, Oxford 
  • Attended 'Developing a Strategy for Engaging Visitors' course, Nottingham University
  • On going work as consultant conservator for University of Nottingham Museum


  • Poster accepted for SEAHA 2017
  • 5 min presentation at M3C Research Festival
  • 1 week field trip to Ludwig Museum, Cologne assisting with PRISMS analysis of avant garde Russian painting.  <add bulleted list>

year 2018

  • Show cased the film 'The Flawford Virgin' on the NTU stand at Digital Heritage 2018, San Francisco


Other Research Interests:

  • Conducted research with British Geological Survey into the use of RTI in the analysis of low topography fossils (2016)
  • Conducted RTI surface analysis of a grave slab in All Hallows Church, Gedling, Nottingham on behalf of the Richard III Society (2016)
  • Multi spectral imaging analysis of 19th Century graffiti, Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire (2017).
  • Conducted RTI and raking light survey of the walls of Woolsthorpe Manor, childhood home of Sir Issac Newton (National Trust). Resulting in the discovery of previously undiscovered graffiti. 


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University email address:

LinkedIn: <add URL>

Twitter: @Chrispickup1

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