ANSTO partnership reveals history secrets

Cutting-edge nuclear research techniques have been combined with historical artefacts to provide never-before-seen images of some of the significant objects in the Powerhouse Museum.

The insights are possible thanks to a collaboration between ANSTO, Australia's knowledge centre for nuclear science and engineering, and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS).

Using ANSTO's world-class nuclear scientific capabilities, including the OPAL reactor, Australian Synchrotron, particle accelerators and the neutron imaging instrument 'Dingo' - the researchers have been able to examine priceless historical artefacts at an atomic level to reveal their inner workings or hidden secrets from the past.

Some of the objects that were investigated under this partnership are on display at the Powerhouse Museum's 'The Invisible Revealed' exhibit.

It shines a light on history of statues from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Tang dynasty China, and there is a collection of Samurai swords, and textiles from Ancient, Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.

A miniature camera, a musical fob watch and a Geiger counter will also delight history buffs.

ANSTO Senior Instrument Scientist, Joseph Bevitt, said he was thrilled with the opportunity to work in partnership the Powerhouse Museum to better understand the past.

"We've been able to gaze upon relics of the past, to learn their purpose, age, authenticity, and how they were constructed, revealing methods used in some cases thousands of years ago," Dr Bevitt said.

"We have seen history up close - down to the atomic scale.

"ANSTO is home of the most sophisticated nuclear instruments in Australia, which have proven their benefit medically, environmentally and now culturally."

MAAS Research Manager Deborah Lawler-Dormer said that pairing with ANSTO has enabled researchers to examine artefacts at an unprecedented level, with no effects on the objects.

"In the past, some of antiquities' greatest treasures were destroyed in the process of studying the secrets they held," Dr Lawler-Dormer said.

"Thanks to the expertise available at ANSTO, we can now study precious artefacts, digitally take them apart and determine their internal composition without damaging, or in some cases, seeing the artefact.

"These are priceless possessions which have only ever been seen at face value.

"To be able to showcase them as they've never been seen before gives the people of NSW a view that was not even seen by the creators of these objects."

The exhibit is open to the public at the Powerhouse Museum until May 22.