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Dr Alexander Scott (1853–1947), First Head of the Research Laboratory

Photo credit: The Trustees of the British Museum

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In 1919 Dr Alexander Scott, a past president of the Chemical Society, was asked by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to conduct an inquiry into the condition of antiquities at the British Museum stored underground during the First World War. On his recommendation, in 1920 a scientific laboratory was set up, initially on a temporary basis. This became part of the Museum in 1931, headed by Scott until 1938. A small team carried out scientific study of ancient materials and their reactions to various environmental conditions, and methods of preservation and restoration were evolved. From this developed today’s Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, one of the oldest and largest conservation facilities in the world.

British Museum



Dr Alexander Scott (1853–1947), First Head of the Research Laboratory




oil on canvas


H 90 x W 98 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from Dr Harold James Plenderleith

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British Museum

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