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Project team

Dr Stella Panayotova, Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, and Dr Paola Ricciardi, Research Scientist, Fitzwilliam Museum

Prof. Stephen Elliott (Department of Chemistry); Dr Spike Bucklow (Hamilton Kerr Institute); Edward Cheese, Conservator of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Dr Deirdre Jackson, Research Associate, Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books, and Georgina Doji, Computer Associate (Fitzwilliam Museum); Prof. Nigel Morgan (Emeritus Professor, History of Art); Dr Sachiko Kusukawa (Department of History and Philosophy of Science); Dr Pietro Cicuta (Department of Physics); Dr Carola-Bibiane Schoenlieb (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics).


International research network

Victoria & Albert Museum, Durham University, J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Conservation Institute, ICIS-CNR Padova, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Nottingham Trent University, University of Antwerp.


Grants received

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Scott Finnis Foundation, Mercers Company, Pilgrim Trust (2011-2016): £590,000.

Zeno Karl Schindler Foundation (2013-2020): £170,000

Isaac Newton Trust (2011-2013): £69,673                                                        

Cambridge University Large Cross-Schools Funding Bids (2011-2012): £10,000

Samuel H. Kress Foundation (2016): $7,500                             


Project summary

Launched in 2012 by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research in the presence of the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, MINIARE is a cross-disciplinary project using advanced methods in the physical sciences, the arts, humanities and social sciences. It employs non-invasive analytical methods to identify the painting materials and techniques in manuscripts, incorporating the discoveries into textual, art-historical and provenance research. Combining Cambridge’s rich collections and world-class expertise, MINIARE brings studies of the artistic, cultural, political, social and economic environments in which the manuscripts were created together with cutting-edge scientific protocol and digital technology.

Technical analysis, well established as a scholarly tool in other artistic media, is a recent development in manuscript studies. The few results, published mostly in scientific journals, are rarely considered vis-à-vis the manuscripts’ cultural significance. MINIARE is the first synergy of scientific, stylistic, textual and historical analyses, systematically examining statistically significant groups of material rather than isolated examples. It identifies new pigments, corrects misconceptions about artists’ methods of work and transforms current knowledge about medieval painting, revealing the transfer of materials and expertise across manuscripts, panels, stained glass and textiles. MINIARE has a research network of colleagues from three of Cambridge’s Schools, from UK and overseas universities, and from industry. MINIARE features in the Vice-Chancellor’s presentations as a flagship of Cambridge’s interdisciplinary research.

MINIARE’s current focus is on Western  European manuscripts produced between the 6th and the 16th century. This phase of the project informed the Museum’s bicentenary exhibition COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts  (30 July - 30 December 2016) and is the research platform for the resource ILLUMINATED: Manuscripts in the making.


Major outputs

Exhibition and exhibition catalogue

Bicentenary exhibition COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts (30 July 2016 – 2 Jan. 2017), attracting over 100,000 visitors and overwhelmingly positive responses by academics, conservators, the press and the public

COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. S. Panayotova, London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2016. The catalogue sold out half-way through the exhibition and its reprint sold out as the show closed.

Conference and conference proceedings

International conference Manuscripts in the Making: Art and Science (8-10 Dec. 2016), attracting over 250 delegates

Manuscripts in the Making: Art and Science, ed. S. Panayotova and P. Ricciardi, London and Turnhout: Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2017

Digital resource

ILLUMINATED: manuscripts in the making