The Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science+ (NICAS) brings together researchers from the disciplines of conservation, art history, physical science and computer science. We want to develop the connections between these disciplines in the form of a cohesive research programme, with a focus on the origin of the object and the life of the object through time. The ultimate goal is a more complete understanding, an enriched presentation and optimal preservation of cultural heritage.
Until recently, the study of art objects was divided between those who analyzed making and materials – scientists and conservators – and those who studied history and meaning – (art) historians. The integration of these two approaches has, over the past two decades, generated a new collaborative research field that studies how materiality and meaning connect. The Netherlands has an internationally leading role in this type of research in which the sciences, art history and conservation are integrated.
The basis for this development was laid in the 1990s, when the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO, the Dutch national funding agency) first launched the priority projects MolArt and DeMayerne. In these programs museums and science-based academic partners collaborated in conservation science. In the new millennium, NWO continued these efforts in the program Science4Arts, an interdisciplinary funding program in which technical and scientific research are applied to the conservation of art. Specifically for this program, NWO teamed up with the SciArt program of the National Science Foundation in the United States that had the same general aims.
To provide these successful initiatives with a more permanent institutional basis, the Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science+ (NICAS) was established in 2015. It was an initiative of the division for Physical Sciences of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) with the Rijksmuseum (RM), the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), the Faculties of Humanities and Science of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) as lead partners.
The participation of museums, universities and heritage institutions ensures that the producers of knowledge and the stakeholders who benefit most closely from this knowledge collaborate intensively. This is true for both the articulation of challenges and research questions and the dissemination and application of research results.
Within NICAS, museums, academic and heritage institutions collaborate with partners in forensic science, industry and large-scale research facilities. The main goal is to deepen multidisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration and to set an innovative strategic research agenda for the field of integrated cultural heritage research.