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Mr Peter James McElhinney

PositionResearch Student
LocationRichmond Building, K37
DepartmentArchaeological Sciences

Research Interests (key words only)

Organic materials, heritage science, material culture, conservation, analytical technology, heritage imaging, intangible heritage.


I am an object conservator with research interests in the scientific analysis of cultural material.

Following graduation from the BA in Conservation of Organic Materials at the University of the Arts, London, I spent a number of years working as a conservation research fellow at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., completing research on material culture ranging from Native American baskets to WWII German aircraft. More recently, I have undertaken technical analysis of organic components from the Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Over the course of an Andrew W. Mellon fellowship at the National Museum of the American Indian, I became increasingly aware of cultural recovery initiatives administered by the museum, and of the value of these projects for nurturing culturally disrupted communities. This inspired me to investigate the impact of historical cultural disruption in Gaelic Irish communities, and to examine the role of heritage science in recovering cultural information lost in the transition to Irish modernity. These questions and enquiries form the basis of my current PhD research within the School of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford.

Study History

  • BA (Hons) Conservation of Organic Materials, 2009, Camberwell College, University of the Arts, London.

Professional History

  • Visiting Researcher, 2017, Department of Scientific Research, World Conservation and Exhibition Centre, British Museum, London.
  • Organic Material Analyst, 2015, Staffordshire Hoard Research Project, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
  • Post-Graduate Fellow in Conservation of Museum Objects, 2013-2014, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institute, Virginia.
  • Andrew W. Mellon, Post-Graduate Fellow in Object Conservation, 2011-2013, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.

Research Areas

  • Technical analysis of organic materials.
  • Development of object based conservation protocols.
  • Cultural recovery.
  • Heritage science communication.

Current Projects

My current research employs object conservation and heritage science methodologies to document and evaluate archaeological museum artefacts considered to form part of the material record for the 16th-century Gaelic culture in the north of Ireland.

The work aims to characterise raw materials, understand processing and production techniques, and stylistic influences expressed in the available archaeological remains as a means to establish links with the material culture that followed. A parallel ethnohistorical and historical landscape study will inform understanding of the conditions under which Gaelic objects were produced and used.

The project will engage cultural practitioners, artists, and makers in Ulster to trace links between archaeological holdings, and contemporary Irish folk material traditions.

Please visit the Heritage Consortium website for more details.


Horelick L., Collum, M., McElhinney P., Weiss A., Lee R., Madden O. Technical Study of the Bat Wing Ship (the Horten Ho 229 V3) AIC Objects Specialty Group Postprints, Volume Twenty-One, 2014. 229-250.

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