Treasure Island is the ambitious Public Arts project where the public's own treasures are discovered and contribute to the process of the production of Public Art. This high profile project by artist Seran Kubisa involves conducting a forensic investigation of minute fragment samples.

The Investigation

Forensic size fragments are collected from artefacts and heritage sites. The investigation catalogs the dates, history and memories. The objects are photographed and fragments taken from the artefacts. The fragments are analysed by Seran using a powerful microscope to create artworks. The objects date from 1545 to the 20th century.

The fragments are scientifically analysed under a microscope for flourescence, a technique Seran has been using since 2002. Seran Kubisa “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 process form analyzing to artwork uses the lasers to extract data to create stunning colour and structural images. These can be reproduced in a number of ways; as prints, designs, light boxes, architectural projections and installations, as well as larger scale artworks and architectural pieces. r

The Treasure

Seran's research with science led to the unique realisation that there was a relationship with intriguing visual imagery under the microscope and the presence of flourescence. Artefacts which are over 30 years old contain more natural fluorescence and this is analysed to reveal stunning microscopic structures.

Each contribution is assigned an archive number. Photographs and details about the artefact, the participant's special memories, histories, location of the treasure and fragment fibre are all cataloged.

Over 200 archives have been documented. View archive investigations:

The Locations


Portsmouth City Museum Store Private Location 00001- 00011


Drayton Friendship Centre 00012-00023


Charles Dickens Centre Buckland 00023-00027


Portsmouth Civic Offices - City Centre 00028-00036


Portsmouth City Museum Public Open Session 00037-00054


Chinese Community Southsea - Friendship House 00055-00060


Royal Naval Museum - The Dockyard 00061-00070


Portsmouth Cathedral - Old Portsmouth 00071-00087


Age Concern - Fratton 00088-00100


Portsmouth Disability Forum 00101- 00115


Portsmouth Football Club - Fratton Park 00116 - 00124


Cumberland House - Southsea Portsmouth 00125 - 00127


Hms Warrior - Portsmouth 00128 - 00132


Hms Victory - Portsmouth 00133 - 00141


Mary Rose - Southsea Portsmouth 00142 - 00159


Spitbank Fort 00160 - 00164


African Womens Forum 00165 - 00169


Dday Museum 00170 - 00174


Southsea Castle 00175 - 00177


Portsmouth City Museum Final Public Session 00179 - 00187


Hilsea Lido 00189 - 00192

Artwork, Forensic Investigation and Science

  • The investigation collects small samples from artefacts in order to analyse them
  • Samples can be as small as 1 millimetre, or as large as can be spared without intrusive damage to the artefact. They are collected at the time of discovering and recording the treasured memory
  • When viewed live under the laser beam, Seran selects the areas to image based on the physical influences, colour and visual quality of the resulting fluorescence
  • Selecting which parts of a sample's fluorescence "rainbow" to record (from the ultraviolet, through the visible colours and out into the infra-red) is crucial for artistic interpretation of the raw digital data collected. Seran also looks out for fluorescent patterns that result from innate properties of the material itself and the wear and tear and accumulation of additional substances resulting from its history. This can open a window onto the entire life of the artefact.

The Confocal Scanning Laser Microscope


The samples collected from the artefacts are taken to the Biomedical Imaging Unit at Southampton General Hospital where they are examined, analysed and recorded using a Leica SP2 or SP5 Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope. This high tech (and very expensive) form of microscope uses a clever optical trick to image and sharply focus or "slices" through a sample. A series of laser beams scan across the specimen and make it fluoresce. This fluorescence is captured by a series of very sensitive, high resolution digital cameras which can be tuned to record different parts of the sample's fluorescence "rainbow" (from the ultraviolet, through the visible colours and out into the infra-red). Between the sample and the cameras is a light-proof shutter with a very tiny pinhole in it. The shutter vibrates in tune with the movement of the laser beam across the sample, allowing only fluorescence from a particular point in the sample to pass through the pinhole to the cameras. Fluorescence from other (out of focus) levels in the specimen misses the pinhole and so never reaches the cameras. This produces a very sharp image. By moving the sample up and down under the laser beam, sharp images can be recorded from many different levels. These can then be combined and analysed to create a 3D view of the sample.

Many materials fluoresce when illuminated by a laser beam and this is more intense in older samples.

View the forensic analysis

Artist Seran Kubisa

Seran's scientific research with the University of Southampton (Leverhulme Trust Award winner 2001-2002) led to the innovative use of the microscope and the presence of flourescence. The older the materials, the more natural fluorescence is in the sample. Since this discovery Seran has been collecting older samples for their scientific properties, physical influences and memories.

Treasure Island is the 3rd series of Forensic Investigations.

Series 1: 'My Sitting Room' - 2002

Series 2: 'Our School' - 2004

Visit Seran's website

Artist Team

Seran's team accompany her on each data collection and forensic sample collection session

  • Assistant - Sally Taylor
  • Photographer - Paul Everitt
  • Historians from Portsmouth City Museum: Rosalinda Hardiman, Jon Stedman, Katy Ball and Portsmouth Grammar School: Catherine Smith
  • Website Development & Collaboration - Marcus Coles


  • Art Plus awarded by Arts Council England & SEEDA
    Development Award : ƒƒƒƒƒ‚ƒƒƒƒ‚ƒƒƒ‚ƒƒ‚ƒ‚‚£ 10,000
    Final Award for Innovation : ƒƒƒƒƒ‚ƒƒƒƒ‚ƒƒƒ‚ƒƒ‚ƒ‚‚£ 50,000

  • Portsmouth City Council

  • Project Patron David Pointer ƒƒƒƒƒ‚ƒƒƒƒ‚ƒƒƒ‚ƒƒ‚ƒ‚‚£25000
  • Point Source Ltd: Sponsor of scientific analysis on the confocal laser microscope.

  • Leica Microsystems donated software for processing data

  • Portsmouth Grammar School sponsored Catherine Smith for historical perspective of community investigations

Special thanks to:

In association with

Seran Kubisa

Contact The Artist

If you would like to contact Seran Kubisa please visit her website

Website collaboration

Dr Marcus Coles of Asitis Ltd

City Forensics Treasure Island - A Forensic Investigation of a City

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