Posted in design and architecture, engineering, museum

Eroding beach scenes

Dr. Robin McInnes in England is using paintings made almost 200 years ago to track erosion of beaches on the Hampshire coastline and the Isle of Wight.

From the BBC article

Dr McInnes began to examine images from the 1770s to the 1920s. From more than 400 paintings, prints and illustrations he drew up a scale to asses how useful such artworks were as coastal engineering tools.

“I looked at issues such as the material and the nature of the media, oil paintings versus prints; generally, water colour allowed the most accurate depiction…Followers of the pre-Raphaelites captured in precise detail this period, it coincided with an interest in geology and natural sciences,” [said McInnes]. He added that the paintings of the period were not just a tool for categorising physical change, but also environmental and developmental issues.

“Many artists returned to the same spot to capture the same scenes over a period of years. The study shows how Victorian development has radically changed the coastline; it’s nice to strip it back because it helps you understand what might be the underlying problems of erosion and instability.”

This method is only effective in places with a long history of visual documentation, and as McInnes points out himself a qualitative analysis, but is an effective way to study geological changes, both man-made and through nature. Photographs have been used in California, usually for beach restoration.



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.