top of page
ʻTreasure Island: A Forensic Investigation of a Cityʼ
The investigation  2007-11

ʻTreasure Island: A Forensic Investigation of a Cityʼ Arts Council and SEEDA Arts + Development and Final Award for Innovation. Public art

Partners: Portsmouth City Council. Development Award - £10,000 and Final Award - £50,000; Project Patron - £25.000; Historians - support in kind.

Treasure Island Public art project investigations and scientific experiments informed large-scale projection work, the film ‘Recall', exhibitions, installations and designs for the public realm.


  • 250 participants, 

  • 12 organisations  

  • 6 historians

  • 4 years of investigations

  • 204 artefacts were catalogued and fragments collected

  • 160 microscopic artwork experiments completed from the fragments

  • Memories and historical facts text

  • Project Archive

Fragment Collection


Fragment were collected from artefacts via Public sessions, community groups, museums and organisations


Locations investigated


Mary Rose, HMS Victory, City Museum, Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth Football Club, Chinese community, Age Concern, Disability Forum and Portsmouth Cathedral. Open Public sessions at the museum

Objects Investigated

The artist’s subjects have included the Sledge from Captain Scott’s expedition 1910, Gun Powder Barrel HMS Invincible 1758, HMS Victory Sail 1795, Lady Hamilton's Dress Hem embroidered in honour of Nelson 1803, a Bomb from the Napoleonic Campaign circa 1800, Black Velvet Dress 1920, Silk Chemise 1910 and a supporter’s Lucky Black Cat 1939 from Pompey Football Club


Experiments and confocal laser microscope


Samples from artefacts and locations can be as small as 1 millimetre. They are collected at the time of discovering and recording the memory and history of the object or site. Samples have to contain fluorescence – this is present in objects that have existed for over thirty years. When viewed under the confocal laser microscope  laser beam, Seran selects the areas to image based on composition, colour, and visual quality of the resulting fluorescence. Selecting which part of a samples fluorescent “rainbow” to analyse (from ultraviolet, through the visible colours out to infra-red) is crucial for the interpretation of the raw digital data collected. Seran also looks for fluorescent patterns that result from the innate properties of the materials itself and the wear and tear and accumulation of additional substances relating to its history. This can open a window onto the entire life of an object.

“Each sample has an inherent memory that my ‘stolen’ fragment contains. This memory is still contained in its physical structure and worn influences of time. Those fragments, touched by the original owner, have absorbed their own story ready to be released through these processes… 


The investigation is revealing an often forgotten world and histories from the last 600 years, with the collection of personal memories continuing through the archival website. It has been very emotive and incredible to be able to bring all these histories together, giving a sense of the identity and historic layers in this city.” - Seran Kubisa

bottom of page