types of damage call for specific responses. Whether they be metals,
stone and marble, brick and mortar, or wood and pigments, materials
do not suffer in the same way. Some bacteria thrive on the oleaginous
binders to be found in old paint, some insects devour manuscripts, and
the humidity in old walls can allow fungi to prosper.
Damage of this kind concerns both masterpieces of heritage and more
modest objects which are nevertheless testimonies of daily life, and
sometimes examples of popular arts and traditions. An ever greater and
more detailed knowledge of the structures of materials on a microscopic
and molecular scale - an area where science and technology are making
giant strides - opens up
new perspectives for the preservation and conservation of these testimonies.
of chemists, biochemists and biologists who specialise in materials
and who pool their knowledge in the service of heritage, cooperate very
closely with other specialists such as conservators, art historians,
museum curators, collectors, etc. Considerable progress can be made
thanks to the analyses of samples in laboratories, resistance tests
in situ, studies of the structures of buildings, processes for treating
These research projects very often involve specialised small and medium-sized
companies, which are capable - thanks to their knowledge of a material
- of providing specific solutions derived from those which they have
developed for other applications. Technology transfer from industry
to heritage and vice versa is very often the rule.
Brick architecture: what happens when the
joints give way
Brick architecture, familiar to the inhabitants of many European
countries, is ailing. Increasing pollution in towns is attacking the
cement mortar joints. Several transnational projects have studied
the nature and composition of Roman cements in order to perform restoration
operations which are gentler and more durable than is presently possible.
Another research partnership has also developed a new surface treatment
to make mortar impermeable, using a mixture of silicon and biocides.
Microscopes on site
What do the Roman necropolis in Carmona (Andalucia), the castle of Herberstein
(Austria), and the church of St Martin in Greene (Germany) have in common?
All these monuments have frescoes which have been attacked by humidity
and on which
a number of micro-organisms are feeding. European scientists and SMEs
have worked together to identify them, taking minuscule samples of paint
from them thanks to a
"non-invasive" technology. They then treated them with different
methods in order to select the most appropriate remedy, both for the
frescoes and for the health of the restorers.
European researchers have found a way of avoiding using pesticides,
which are harmful to the environment and to human health. It is sufficient
to remove the oxygen from the air surrounding a work of art or a precious
document for predators (insects, eggs, larvae, chrysalids) to succumb.
An apparatus known as the Veloxy is the solution: the objects to be
treated are placed inside it and it has already proved its worth on
furniture and books. It is thanks to the complementary experience of
two Italian SMEs, three research institutes (in Italy, Spain and the
United Kingdom) and the Stockholm National History Museum that this
project has been conducted successfully.