| ||Special Issue - March 2004|
| CULTURAL HERITAGE - Europe, researchers and cultural heritage
Civilisations are built up over centuries and millennia. The tangible traces they leave behind enable future generations to find their roots in a shared past. With its historical cities, grandiose remains and more modest historical vestiges, Europe is particularly rich in reminders of our shared history. It is no accident that Europe is the continent for the growing business of art and culture tourism. But this culturally – and economically – valuable heritage is also fragile. It is literally crumbling away, not only from age, but also from the effects of climate, pollution and human negligence.The meeting of science and technology with art and culture includes the provision of invaluable assistance towards conserving and restoring these riches. Given the necessary resources, researchers can help curators understand the causes, mechanisms and consequences of this deterioration in our cultural heritage. They can develop practices and technologies to control it and offset its harmful effects. For this reason, for the past 20 years or so the European Union has wholeheartedly supported projects focused on these objectives. Over 200 partnerships involving researchers from many different disciplines and origins have helped save a host of such testimonies from destruction. This European approach – working in networks and comparing buildings, materials and objects from different parts of the continent – has advanced research into our heritage and improved its conservation.
Less sulphur, more nitrogen?
Diagnosis and prevention call for much more sophisticated, multi-factoral analyses and standards than currently exist –the pan-European Multi-Assess project addresses such needs. With the help of sensors placed in various urban areas, researchers are undertaking an extensive campaign to identify and sample toxic components, and to model new "dose-response" functions to combat the corrosion and soiling of different materials by complex combinations of pollutants and atmospheric factors. With participants from 14 countries, Multi-Assess has set out to propose new reference “threshold levels” for implementing the Convention on long-distance cross-frontier atmospheric pollution adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, as well as the Union’s own directives in this area.
Multi-Assess (Model for multi-pollutant impact and assessment of threshold levels for cultural heritage)
16 partners – 14 countries (SE-AT-DE-CH-IT-GR-UK-CS-NO-PL-LV-FR-EE-BE)
Started: January 2002 – 40 months
Contact [ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Website [ http://www.corr-institute.se/MULTI-ASSESS ]
Biomedicine to heal stones
Without pretending to actually look for a substitute for these traditional methods, the six universities and one industrial partner in Biobrush are exploring a non-aggressive alternative approach known as bioremediation. The idea is to identify bacterial micro-organisms that can decompose the mineral and organic deposits encrusted on the stone or brick. Test sites currently include the Tholos Dome at Epidauros (GR), Matera Cathedral (IT) and Riga's Brethren Cemetery (LT).
Biobrush (BIOremediation for Building Restoration of the Urban Stone Heritage in European States)
7 partners (UK-DE-GR-IT-LV)
Started: February 2002 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:email@example.com ]
Website [ http://www.biobrush.org/ ]
To fill this gap, five European research teams set to work on the LiDo project, with three of them tackling specifically the problems of conserving works of art. The objective was to design a practical and user-friendly ‘light dosimeter’. The result is the LightCheck® mini-sensor with a photosensitive covering that changes colour, indicating the ‘accumulated’ exposure to light. A spin-off from space technology, it won a European Space Agency award in December 2003.
7 partners (DE-FR-IT-UK-CZ)
Contact [ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Website [ http://www.lido.fraunhofer.de/ ]
7 partners (IT-BE-FI-NL-PL)
Started: April 2002 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:email@example.com ]
Website [ http://www.isac.cnr.it/friendly-heating/default2.htm ]
Tapestries: analysis without destruction
Other tiny samples are also taken from the tapestries themselves. Conserved in Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom, and representative of both northern and southern European schools, these works are all the more interesting to researchers as their history is well documented (original workshop, successive locations, etc.) “Our analyses are already producing very interesting correlations, and the results are due to be presented this July at the University of Southampton’s Textile Conservation Centre,” says David Howells.
MODHT (Monitoring of Damage in Historic Tapestries)
7 partners (UK-ES-BE)
Started: April 2002 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Website [ http://www.hrp.org.uk/webcode/content.asp?ID=706 ]
Paper’s strange radiation
Researchers in the Papylum project have set themselves the goal of developing a prototype hypersensitive chemiluminometer which can both pick up and measure the ‘signal’. This new instrument will enable researchers to explore the complex conditions (temperature, air humidity and pH, ambient light, etc.) which encourage or slow down the paper-ageing process. It will also make it possible to evaluate ways of optimising the conservation of this fragile material. Once developed, it will provide the curators of our main ‘library treasures’ with an easy and direct method of analysing the ‘state of health’ of their documents – as well as taking a series of preservation measures. A prototype chemiluminometer will be presented at Ljubljana in November 2004 (see website).
With the ability to analyse and diagnose other mediums (textiles, resins and paints), this apparatus could have potential uses in totally different research areas, including pharmaceuticals and foods.
5 partners (SI-SK-NL-FR)
Started: July 2001 – 40 months
Contact [ mailto:matija.strlic@Uni-Lj.si ]
Website [ http://papylum.uni-lj.si/ ]
The evil effects of iron-gall ink
Their research has shown that three parameters come into play in determining the degree of deterioration of the documents: the thickness of the ink layer, that of the paper, and the acidity of the ink. “Once we know these variables, we can foretell the future behaviour of the documents and, where necessary, apply conservation treatments. InkCor's work on degradation mechanisms should also help us to improve certain existing conservation processes.” A patent for an ‘antioxidising treatment’ for commercial use has recently been registered jointly by the ZfB (Zentrum für Bucherhaltung), the National and University Library of Slovenia, and the University of Ljubljana.
8 partners (SI-DE-NL-FR)
Started: March 2002 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:email@example.com ]
Website [ http://www.infosrvr.nuk.uni-lj.si/jana/stran.html ]
Battling with salt
Partners in the European projects Compass and Asset are seeking to understand better the deterioration processes caused by salts, and the technical demands of restoration. In particular, Compass is studying the problems posed by coatings and plasters applied on top of brick masonry (type of damage, causes, quantity of salts, diagnosis, etc.). The ultimate objective is to develop an expert system – an assessment assistant tool – for choosing the most suitable rehabilitation option in individual cases.
Asset is a huge project aiming to validate restoration products and methodologies, based on on-site studies in Zeeland (NL), Venice (IT), La Rochelle (FR) and the Island of Rhodes (EL).
Compass (Compatibility of Plasters and Renders with Salt-loaded Substrates in Historic Buildings)
7 partners (NL-FR-ES-PT)
Started: March 2002 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:R.vanHees@bouw.tno.nl ]
Website [ http://www.kcbs.nl/hm/compass.php ]
Asset (Assessment of suitable products for the conservative treatments of sea-salt decay)
7 partners (IT-NL-FR)
Started: February 2001 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Website [ http://www.assetproject.com/ ]
Regenerating marble ‘materials’
Bioreinforce (Biomediated calcite precipitation for monumental stones reinforcement)
7 partners (IT– UK – ES – BE – FR – IL)
Started: February 2001 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:email@example.com ]
Website [ http://www.ub.es/rpat/bioreinforce.htm ]
Designed by organ builders who signed their instruments with inimitable tones, organs suffer problems of ageing, and certain of their most famous voices have started going hoarse with age. The first case was discovered in 1992 in the famous Stellwagen at the St-Jakobskirche in Lübeck, Germany, the oldest parts of which date back to 1467. Little corrosion holes had appeared in the lead-tin alloy tubes. But the St Jakob’s organ was not the only case of its kind, and it was soon observed that a number of instruments, in many cases from the 15th, 16th and 17thcenturies, were also panting and wheezing. Under GOArt’s baton, the Collapse project was launched in 2002, bringing together the Swedish institute, the parish of St Jakob in Lübeck, a Danish SME specialising in organ building and restoration, chemical researchers from Chalmers University (SE) and archaeometallurgy specialists from the University of Bologna (IT).
“We selected seven organs for reference, all suffering from corrosion, in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. We also compared them with ‘healthy’ instruments, housed in similar conditions in the same regions. One year into the project we realised that certain of the corroded instruments showed a high and unexpected concentration of acetic acid, a known metal corroder. This acid comes from the wooden parts and gets into the bellows.”
But where exactly does it come from? The acid is found in oak which is used for restoration, although many organs repaired in a traditional way with this material do not demonstrate this problem. Could it be young oak? Could it be that central heating encourages the migration of acetic acid from newly used wood?
Collapse's researchers are not just looking for causes – they also want remedies. Methods for treating corroded pipes and preventing this degradation are currently being studied and tested. At the end of the day, the European partners wish to propose a new vision of organ restoration and maintenance methods. “We hope that the results of this study will be useful in particular in the Central and Eastern European countries with their enormous heritage of around 10 000 instruments," Carl Johan Bergsten concludes.
Collapse (Corrosion of Lead and Lead-Tin Alloys of Organ Pipes in Europe)
5 partners (SE-DE-IT)
Started: 2002 – 36 months
Contact [ mailto:Carl.Johan.Bersgsten@musik.gu.se ]
Website [ http://www.goart.gu.se/collapse ]