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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Catherine Higgitt


+44 (0)20 7323 8279


Catherine joined the Museum in January 2007 as Head of the Science Group after seven years in the Scientific Department of the National Gallery, London. Catherine specialises in the analysis of organic natural product materials encountered in painted surfaces (e.g. binding media, varnishes, adhesives, dyestuffs etc) using a combination of spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques (primarily FTIR microscopy, GC-MS and HPLC).

The classes of materials analyses she undertakes include oils, resins, waxes, proteins and organic colorants but also modern synthetic polymers used in conservation treatments. She has also studied the ageing and deterioration of such materials and their interaction with metal-containing pigments.

Catherine hopes to extend her work to include the wider range of organic materials encountered in the British Museum collection and complement the existing organic specialists within the Science Group.

Before joining the National Gallery, Catherine spent one year working as the first scientist employed at the Historic Scotland Conservation Centre in Edinburgh. She holds a PhD in Organometallic chemistry from the University of York.

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)

Member of the International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation, (ICOM-CC)

Member of International Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, (IIC)

Member of the Institute of Conservation, (ICON)

Recent publications

M. Spring, C. Higgitt and D. Saunders, ‘Investigation of Pigment-Medium Interaction Processes in Oil Paint containing Degraded Smalt’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 26 (2005), pp. 56-70

J. Kirby, M. Spring and C. Higgitt, ‘Insight into the Technology of Red Lake Pigment Manufacture through Study of the Dyestuff Substrate’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 26 (2005), pp. 71-87

C. Higgitt and R. White, ‘Analyses of Paint Media: New Studies of Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 26 (2005), pp. 88-104

C. Higgitt, M. Spring and D. Saunders, ‘Pigment-medium Interactions in Oil Paint Films containing Red Lead or Lead-Tin Yellow’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 24 (2003), pp. 75-95

M.J. Plater, B. De Silva, T. Gelbrich, M.B. Hursthouse, C.L. Higgitt, D.R. Saunders, ‘The characterisation of lead fatty acid soaps in ‘protrusions’ in aged traditional oil paint’, Polyhedron, 22 (2003), pp. 3171–9