RESEARCH, CULTURAL HERITAGE
Finishing touches on EU artefacts conservation project
As Labs-Tech, a European project for conserving cultural heritage, draws to a close, the laboratories involved are publishing their findings – including startling evidence that the Italian master ‘il Perugino’ retouched his paintings. Now, they are looking at ways to continue co-operating in this important field.
Spurred on by EU research programmes and funding – and a growing interest in preserving and restoring national heritage – conservation science has become an important branch of research in its own right, assembling specialists from the worlds of physics, (bio)chemistry, materials science and more.
|Conserving Europe’s unique cultural heritage is a painstaking art-cum-science|
© Image: PhotoDisc
One project, funded under the ‘Improving human potential’ scheme of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) for research, has focused its energies on promoting Europe-wide co-operation in this diverse field of science. Labs-Tech – short for ‘Laboratories on science and technology for the conservation of European cultural heritage’ – assembled a network of European institutions to share expertise, stimulate excellence, propose standards and best practices, and to develop joint research projects aimed at studying and conserving cultural artefacts.
The project was coordinated by the Interuniversity Consortium on Science and Technology of Materials (INSTM), Italy, which brought together 11 partners from Italy, Germany, France, Greece, Belgium, Portugal and the UK, including known institutes, such as the Research Centre for Museum Restoration in France and Belgium’s Royal Institute of Art Patrimony. Leading the group was Professor Bruno Brunetti of the University of Perugia’s (IT) chemistry department.
By sharing their expertise, the partners organised joint activities, such as the workshop on ‘Binding media identification in art objects’, and developed several new applications and tools to improve patrimonial preservation. It also conducted a survey of existing European resources in the field, including personnel, know-how and facilities, and came up with new techniques, tools and materials for conserving artefacts. For example, using chemical analysis, they discovered new things about the famous painter Pietro ‘il Perugino’ Vannucci’s use of pigments and that he must have continuously modified his work to maintain its quality.
As Labs-Tech drew to a close in June, after three and half years of collaboration, Brunetti reflects on the project’s contribution to the conservation of national – and European – heritage. Echoing Humphrey Bogart’s sentiments in Casablanca, he sees the network and its achievements as just the beginning of a beautiful ‘professional’ friendship.
“Effective coordination among the existing qualified laboratories is an important first step [in successfully] building a European Research Area,” he notes. “The activities of the Labs-Tech network can certainly be considered a solid platform on which the science for conserving our cultural heritage can flourish.” Indeed, many of the project partners have taken the collaborative experience a step further, developing off-shoot networks. One such consortium, EU-Artech, has been awarded funding under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) to help stakeholders access research and technology for the conservation of cultural heritage.
EU and project sources
Research Contacts page
Labs TECHSurvey on European resources in the field of science for conservationCentre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musees de France Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique (BE)FP5 (on CORDIS)FP6 Major Projects LibraryMonumental task of preserving Europe’s memories (Headlines, 30 December 2003)