The Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund grant is being used to produce the first quadruple mass spectrometer (QMS) for commercial use, which will be available for archaeologists in 2016. The QMS will be based at Norton Priory Museum & Gardens coinciding with the reopening of the museum in August 2016 following a £4.5m HLF funded renovation as reported earlier this week in M+H Advisor.

Norton Priory Museum & Gardens, the most excavated monastic site in Europe has provided medieval and post medieval animal bone samples, already dated, for the scientists at the University of Liverpool to analyse with the proto-type technology – a form of quadruple mass spectrometer (QMS).

Remains found at Norton Priory will be used to test the revolutionary new QMS device

Radiocarbon Dating is one of the most important techniques used by archaeologists to date organic samples. However, it can be a restrictive and expensive process which invariably takes place offsite and can take up to six weeks or more for results.

The knock on effect of this is that excavation is likely to be over before the important dating information can be obtained. But now this ground-breaking new work by the Electrical Engineering and Electronics Department at the University of Liverpool is set to reduce this period, for bone samples, to just two days. The new technique can also be utilised onsite for the first time.

“The potential of this new technique is incalculable. Archaeologists will, for the first time, be able to make decisions onsite and within days of sampling,” said Frank Hargrave, Director of Norton Priory. “The expense and time consuming nature of conventional methods will also no longer be a barrier and it’s likely that many more samples will be able to be taken with significant benefits to the archaeological record. It is fantastic to be involved with the incredible work that the University of Liverpool is doing and we are enormously grateful to Arts Council England for funding the development of such revolutionary equipment at Norton.”

Due to the enormous extent of the excavations completed under professional conditions, Norton provided the ideal context from which the samples could be taken. The Museum Resilience Fund is designed to support museums to become more financially sustainable and one of the aims of the project is for Norton Priory to develop a new income from the commercial use of the QMS device.

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