‘Science in the Classroom’ shows the value of research in cultural heritage

‘Science in the Classroom’ is a programme organised by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Embassy of Spain in London, by which a scientist or an engineer per month visits 14-18 years-old students in the Spanish School Vicente Cañada Blanch in London until the end of the term. This programme began in the year 2015-2016 and continues with its second edition during 2016-2017. It is also supported by the Spanish Education Office in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the Spanish School Vicente Cañada Blanch, and the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (SRUK/CERU).’Science in the Classroom’ is embedded in the FECYT line of action related to the promotion of scientific culture and dissemination, and support for internationalisation of Spanish science.

Last 24 January the speaker was Ana Cabrera Lafuente, PhD in History of Medieval Arts, curator in the National Museum of Decorative Arts of Madrid, and Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellow in the Victoria and Albert Museum of London. Her talk was entitled ‘Research in cultural heritage: beyond Indiana Jones’.
Dr Cabrera Lafuente used some examples of heritage such as outfits, vessels and other tools, to explain the comprehensive effort for a good preservation, from the very collection of items in the field to its exhibition and digitalisation in museums.

Some students were surprised when the scientist told them how different professionals, from archaeologists and historians to computing engineers, physicists, chemists, and biologists, work altogether for preserving cultural heritage. She said that ‘while the border between Science and Humanities is less defined day by day, any endeavour now requires more than ever of a multidisciplinary approach’.

The curator also spoke about the importance of the layout and exhibition of all materials in museums, as well as the communication strategy for exhibitions. In her words, ‘a very important aspect of this effort is the focus on the general public. Even when you do basic research, you have to think in how to make it available to the general public’. And so, the archaeologist gave some examples of augmented virtual reality that have been applied in museums recently.