Protecting the past from the future: climate change and heritage science

In a new paper published in Heritage Science, Cathy Daly reports on a new tool that will enable conservation experts to monitor the impact of climate change on heritage sites.

Humans have had a huge impact on the planet, and the climate change that has and will continue to result from urbanization, pollution and industrialization is still being studied. But what effect will it have on buildings and monuments built hundreds or even thousands of years ago? How can we future-proof our cultural heritage? These questions are difficult because of the timescale involved: cultural heritage buildings would need around 30-100 years of monitoring to cover what climate scientists consider to be the “climate norm.”

In a new study, published in Heritage Scienceresearchers from the University of Lincoln have come up with an elegantly simple tool for just that.

The LegIT tool will help conservators monitor climate change at heritage sites.
The LegIT tool will help conservators monitor climate change at heritage sites.
Cathy Daly

In her paper “The design of a legacy indicator tool for measuring climate change related impacts on built heritage,” Dr. Cathy Daly, from the School of History & Heritage, reports on the development of LegIT, a tool for monitoring climate changes, through recession, salt crystallization and microbiological growth, using sacrificial stone cubes installed at heritage sites. The tool has been installed at five heritage sites in the Republic of Ireland: Brú na Bóinne in County Meath, the monastery of Clonmacnoise in County Offaly, the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, Dublin Castle, and Skellig Michael, (recognizable also to fans of Star Wars: The Force Awakens). These sites give a range of ages (from around 3000 BCE to 1700 CE) and environments (coastal, rural, urban etc.) and will allow conservators to non-invasively monitor the effects of changes in temperature, moisture, pollution levels, and more for the century to come.

Initial findings from this pilot study will be looked at later this year, and you can read the full paper in Heritage Science. A press release from the University of Lincoln can be read here.

hs smallAs with all SpringerOpen titles, Heritage Science is a fully open-access peer-reviewed scientific journal, and covers scientific, mathematical, and computational methods and analysis of objects, materials, artifacts and artworks of cultural and historical significance in the context of heritage and conservation studies.

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