Since 2001, the EU has been encouraging collaborative projects in the field of scientific heritage research. This means that a large number of universities and laboratories have been collaborating on movable heritage research for many years. In practice, this always involved the same parties. Before investing in a permanent infrastructure, the EU therefore decided to make funding available one last time, for an international collaborative project called IPERION HS: Integrated Platform for the European Research Infrastructure. The aim of this project is to establish a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). A number of ERICs are already active in Europe, and E-RIHS has started to prepare for the establishment of the Cultural Heritage ERIC (E-RIHS-ERIC) in 2024.

Predecessors of IPERION HS
IPERION HS was preceded by several other projects. The European LabsTECH project (2001-2004) was the first attempt at formal cooperation in cultural heritage research. It involved 11 science and technology laboratories across eight different countries. The project’s successor, EU ARTECH (2004-2009), started the development of a joint mobile laboratory (MOLAB). Participants were also given access to advanced research techniques in the existing laboratories (FIXLAB). A significant expansion of the network took place as part of the subsequent EU project CHARISMA (2009-2014), which involved 21 partners from 12 countries. This project led to the development of ARCHLAB, which allows researchers to search for information in the archives of the participating research institutes. After this came IPERION CH (Cultural Heritage 2015-2018), the direct predecessor of IPERION HS (Heritage Science).

The aim of IPERION HS (2019-2022) was to set up an international network for science-based heritage research. IPERION HS represented a transitional phase between IPERION CH and the definitive establishment of the international E-RIHS-ERIC consortium. It involved 23 countries working together on scientific heritage research projects. IPERION HS also provided training, and it unlocked a wide range of scientific instruments, methods, data and tools for the purpose of heritage research.

Structure of IPERION HS
The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, now part of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, was involved from the first projects pursuing European cooperation between research laboratories and cultural heritage knowledge institutes. In the Netherlands, IPERION HS was led by the Cultural Heritage Agency, in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, the University of Groningen, Delft University of Technology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and DANS-KNAW.

The work carried out under the IPERION HS banner covered three interrelated areas: international access to scientific facilities, collaborative research and network strengthening. The project had eight key goals:

1. Set up a basic cooperation structure to handle steering, decision-making, financial management and quality control. This was done through a governing board and steering committee, project managers and various advisory bodies.

2. Continue to develop ARCHLAB, with the aim of providing international access to archives and data from previous studies and research.

3. Continue to develop FIXLAB, which makes the most advanced laboratory techniques and physical locations accessible.

4. Continue to develop MOLAB, which enables non-invasive measurements and research on cultural heritage objects, collections, buildings and sites using a collection of mobile instruments.

5 Align all joint scientific activities. Activities mostly focused on improving the scientific and technical quality of the research being conducted, methodology development and cost-effective data management (such as innovative methods for linking archaeological datasets).

6. Based on key goal E, increase the innovative impact of project and research results. This led to the development of a roadmap for using, sharing and exchanging the knowledge, tools and data of the future E-RIHS-ERIC.

7. Encourage participation in the E-RIHS-ERIC by offering training to users and encouraging interaction through a user forum. This supports professionalisation and gives users a voice in fleshing out IPERION HS, while also connecting the various heritage domains.

8. Set up a central desk for the synchronisation of international applications for ARCHLAB, FIXLAB and MOLAB. This also served as the IPERION HS hub for training courses, communications and operations staff, and activities related to linking up with other European initiatives and networks.

More information on the projects that preceded IPERION HS is available here.