British Museum welcomes new Director of Scientific Research

The British Museum is pleased to welcome Professor Carl Heron as the new Director of Scientific Research. He will lead the Museum’s renowned team of scientists under the new Department of Scientific Research, supported by the Wellcome Trust, and look to shape the scientific research programme for the future.

The Museum is the UK’s most popular visitor attraction – with 6.8million visitors in 2015. As is demonstrated by the success of recent exhibitions such as Ancient Lives: New Discoveries and the current Room 3 display Scanning Sobek, the Museum is keen to bring the results of its ground-breaking scientific work to its global audiences, both onsite and online.

The opening of the World Conservation and Exhibition Centre in 2014 has provided an opportunity for the organisation to become an internationally recognised centre for scientific research by capitalising on the resources and collections which make it unique. The Museum will look to focus its research in a number of key areas over the next five years including, new approaches to organic artefacts and residues, research looking at ancient human health, diet and life histories, ancient materials and technologies and finally preserving and protecting the past.

The Wellcome Trust has a long-standing relationship with the British Museum. The Trust supported the development of ‘The Wellcome Trust Gallery of Living and Dying’, winner of the 2004 Museums and Heritage Award for Excellence for a Permanent Exhibition. The gallery explores different approaches to our shared challenges as human beings, focussing on how diverse cultures seek to maintain health and well-being. The Trust provided additional support for educational initiatives which have allowed the Museum’s audiences to deepen engagement with the popular space.

Jonathan Williams, Deputy Director, British Museum said, “The British Museum is pleased to welcome Carl and we are grateful to the Wellcome Trust for the support for, and belief in, the potential for the scientific investigation of the Museum’s collections to tell new stories and generate new knowledge about the history of human cultural achievement.”

Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture & Society at the Wellcome Trust said, “We are delighted to support world-class scientific research at one of the world’s greatest museums. We believe Professor Heron and his team will use this unique opportunity to expose the intricate connections between health and culture throughout humanity’s past.”

Sir Paul Nurse, Director of the Francis Crick Institute and Trustee of the British Museum said, “Professor Heron will be a great asset to the British Museum as it seeks to shape its scientific research programme for the future. Scientific analysis of the collection is of vital importance as we seek to understand and share our knowledge of these extraordinary objects with the widest possible audience”.

Professor Carl Heron said, “I am honoured to have the opportunity of taking the science strategy of the British Museum forward. Science is central to the mission of the Museum, both in caring for the collection for future generations to enjoy and in revealing new perspectives on the past. With the generous support of the Wellcome Trust, we will harness the new developments in science and present our findings to the widest possible audience. I look forward to working with the dedicated and enthusiastic team in the British Museum.”

Notes to Editors:


Carl Heron is Professor of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford. After postdoctoral research at the University of Liverpool, he took up a lectureship in Bradford in 1990, was head of Archaeological Sciences there from 1999-2001 and 2010-2014, and Dean of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences from 2001-2006.

His research focus lies in the identification of organic matter preserved in association with archaeological materials, and allies analytical organic chemistry to archaeological questions such as the function of artefacts, trade and exchange and the study of technological processes. He has a particular interest in molecular and isotopic characterisation of organic residues associated with ceramic containers and in the identification of organic substances used in mortuary processes

The Wellcome Trust:

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. They support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

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