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Proposed GCRF Fragile Heritage Hub


The School of Archaeological & Forensic Sciences expand on their successes in digital heritage with a £20m bid to newly formed UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) for a proposed 'GCRF Fragile Heritage Hub'.

In recent years, the School of Archaeological & Forensic Sciences, have developed a range of 3D imaging and visualisation capabilities to serve research applications in archaeology and heritage – including prospection, conservation and digital documentation, bioarchaeology and forensic science.

The Visualising Heritage team, co-directed by Dr Andrew Wilson, Dr Chris Gaffney, and Professor Vince Gaffney, have brought in more than £7 million worth of digital heritage research projects since 2011 from a range of funding bodies including Jisc, AHRC, ERC, The British Academy, and HEIF. In February, they were invited to submit a full bid, having being shortlisted from a total of 248 proposals to the Global Challenges Research Fund. If successful this will create the proposed £20 million GCRF Fragile Heritage Hub, working to address heritage challenges across ODA countries.

bradford visualisation team outside Heaton Mount

The varied capabilities and wide-ranging skillsets within the team have been developed through a number of legacy research projects that include:

  • Curious Travellers - pilot research successfully deriving high fidelity 3D data from web-scraped and crowd-sourced imagery for heritage under threat.
  • FossilFinder - our citizen science research with Dr Louise Leakey in East Lake Turkana, Kenya as part of the Fragmented Heritage project, also concerned with automated refitting.
  • Digitised Diseases - a collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons and MOLA to develop an online 3D resource of chronic pathological conditions affecting the human skeleton.
  • Lost Frontiers - using prospection methods in archaeology, molecular biology and computer simulation to explore past environment records showing climate change within the flooded landscapes of Doggerland beneath the North Sea.

Andrew Wilson said “Our recent work on digital infrastructures will help mitigate the scale of natural and human-made threats to monuments, sites and landscapes that may otherwise be irrevocably damaged and destroyed. GCRF anticipate awarding 12-15 Hubs which will each run for 5 years from December 2018. Of the 52 bids that have been shortlisted, we are the only proposal that explicitly recognises the range of threats and challenges to both tangible and intangible heritage and the potential to link heritage with sustainable development.”

“Heritage is a conduit for social cohesion and a rich resource for addressing extreme poverty in the Global South. Worldwide, irrevocable destruction of heritage is a frequent occurrence, resulting from conflict, neglect, looting, vandalism, natural disaster, environmental change, and through the pressures of agricultural encroachment and unregulated development. It ensues largely without an agreed framework of response or mitigation.”

“The GCRF Fragile Heritage Hub will research risks and protection strategies and implement, support and sustain local heritage recording, anticipating potential damage or loss, through a global network of heritage researchers. These goals are linked by research to provide a digital infrastructure, based in part on technologies pioneered at Bradford, to promote, conserve, manage, and rebuild fragile and damaged heritage.”

In preparing the funding bid for the proposed GCRF Fragile Heritage Hub the team have developed some critical partnerships across strategically important ODA countries. In March, GCRF funded a two day global partnership development workshop at Heaton Mount, involving attendees from Latin America; Africa & the Middle East; South/ Central Asia; and East Asia, with a further 10 individuals joining us via Skype and webinar throughout the proceedings.

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