Aerial photographic records & satellite imagery for the study of historic buildings and places

Aerial photography, and increasingly aerial remote sensing data captured by satellite, provide a high-resolution view of the ground that can be relevant at all stages of an archaeological study, including reconnaissance, identification, analysis and, of course, as illustrations in a publication.  Many new archaeological sites, especially those that survive as earthworks, have been discovered with the use of aerial photography, both from desktop studies of existing photographic records and from new reconnaissance.  Aerial photography is also useful for Continue reading


A Study of Romanesque Stonework in Ireland

This month sees the culmination of a research project investigating Irish romanesque stonework, kindly grant-funded by the Royal Irish Academy.romanesque-1

Romanesque is a term used to describe an artistic style of architecture, sculpture, metalwork and painting found across Europe from the 11th to the 13th century. In Ireland, ‘Hiberno-romanesque’ stonework includes architectural elements such as carved doorways, arches and windows, as well as Irish romanesque stone sculpture. Continue reading

The lifespan of digital heritage

At the time of writing, Joe Donnelly is playing the last ‘Drive’ on TXFM, Ireland’s smallest commercial radio station, but one which has arguably contributed the most to emerging Irish musicians, and quite frankly, the most fun radio station around. TXFM, and its earlier incarnation PhantomFM which I first discovetxfmred in the late 1990s have consistently played excellent music amid airwaves heavy with forgettable tunes. The demise of TXFM, which ends transmission at 8pm this evening, is a reflection of the vulnerability of digital data to sudden change, and begs the question – what is the lifespan of digital data?

Much of the information generated in the field of cultural heritage has been in digital format since the late 1990s. Increasingly over the last five years, more and more archival and digital resources have become available online, such as the resources of the National Library of Ireland, the British Library and others are increasingly available. However, accessibility to these information resources is reliant on accessibility to the platform which hosts them. Similarly the explosion in photographs, maps, reports, scans, 3D-images and the plethora of digital data generated by modern audiences has created an incredible amount of information. However, there remains the thorny problem of how long does this information last. Can we open a digital image from 15 years ago? How long does an audio file last? What is the lifespan of digital data? Continue reading

Dublin Bay Biosphere Conference

Unchallenged, the natural world soon asserts control over the works of human kind. No longer buildings, not yet wholly a natural landscape, ruins provide a specialised environment which plays host to a wide range of flora and fauna“, Sara Ferraby, Conservation of Ruinsview-from-dublin-bay-small

Dublin Bay was designated as a biosphere by UNESCO in 2015 which comprises a core of the Tolka and Baldoyle estuaries, North Bull Island and Howth Head, Ireland’s Eye, Booterstown Marsh and Dalkey Island. Historic places and natural heritage are often Continue reading

Nano-lime repairs of historic lime mortars and plasters

Every now and then in the field of building conservation, a new treatment or solution is developed which shows great potential to solve problems. The treatments are tested under laboratory conditions to understand how they interact with materialsl, their working parameters, and sometimes how and when they fail. The next stage is application in real-life situations. Nano-limes have been around for over fifteen years, but there are relatively few technical and practical studies to draw on. This month sees the publication a case-study in the use of nano-lime technology in the Journal of the Buildings Lime Forum which considers the potential of the treatment as an alternative to repointing.Granite and lime mortar

Nano-limes are very small particles of calcium hydroxide suspended in an alcoholic medium, developed as a calcium-based consolidant and initially presented for the conservation of wall paintings and frescoes, and later extended to calcareous stones such as limestones.  Nano-limes are consolidants, and should be Continue reading

The Myths, Legends & Folklore of Historic Places

Fairy and folk tales, leprechauns, ghosts and hauntings, myths and legends form part of Irelands oral and somewhat intangible heritage. These tales were recorded by different writers at different times, and enjoyed a surge in popularity from the 19th century onwards. W.B. Yeats edited collection of Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry in 1888 & Irish Fairy Tales in 1892, Lady Gregory’s Irish Mythology in 1902, and countless other writers in the 20th and 21st centuries provided their own selections and re-tellings of mythology. One of today’s challenges is incorporating modern understandings and values of these myths with places which survive in the landscape. Whether its history, legend or folklore, identifying a particular building or feature may not be possible, as the event is associated with a broader ill-defined ‘place’. For example in Louth, the Cooley peninsula is the setting of much of the Táin Bó Cúailnge while Faughart is known as the birthplace of Saint Brigid and a battlefield where the ‘last high king of Ireland’ died, but there often isn’t a specific spot you can point to and say ‘this happened here’. Continue reading

Accessibility of Archaeological Sites & Historic Places

Historic places are a significant cultural asset, but there are barriers and challenges which make accessing some buildings and sites difficult or sometimes impossible. One of the key challenges in improving accessibility and preparing an access strategy and site-specific practicable solutions is to first assess the nature and extent of the place or places of architectural heritage and/or archaeological significance, and to identify what the challenges are. This project was focused on undertaking an accessibility audit of all the archaeological sites within a county area, to identify priority sites which could be used for education and for public awareness, and to suggest how access to those priority sites could be optimised and best presented to a general audience. Continue reading

Archaeological sources for County Sligo

Understanding the historical and/or archaeological significance of a place often entails drawing on a wide range of sources.  While national and international libraries and online resources hold an ever-increasing wealth of research material , local sources often offer a unique resource and a unique perspective on historic places. In addition to studies published for County Kildare and Fingal, and a book on the study of Irelands maritime heritage, this research project explored the range of research material relating to the archaeological heritage of County Sligo. Continue reading

La Biennale di Venezia – lateral thinking & conservation solutions

The 15th International Architecture Exhibition, under the theme ‘Reporting from the Front‘ is held in various sites in and around Venice. As with past exhibitions, though not explicit, there are strong lessons which can inform modern conservation practice in interspersed throughout provocative and interesting exhibits which explore architecture as a public good. Many of the ideas explored in the exhibit such as quality of life, sustainability, inequalities, traffic, waste, crime, pollution, communities, natural disasters and peripheries are encountered in all forms and periods of architecture, though historic buildings and monuments sometimes show greater Continue reading

Kanturk Castle, Co. Cork ~ Conservation Management Plan

The aim of this project was to prepare a draft Conservation Management Plan for Kanturk Castle, Co. Cork, an Irish Renaissance palace, on behalf of An Taisce. The plan was to consider the key conservation issues affecting the castle, and also to investigate the issues and impact of tourism development. Conservation Management Plans provide an understanding of the significance and vulnerability of a place, and provide guidelines, together with a set of specific actions for the management of that place for future generations. They aim to balance responsibilities to protect, conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of a place with active and creative policies to facilitate access and protect its significance for now and into the future. Kanturk Castle

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