Art conservation that does more harm than good

Hindsight is 20-20, as they say. This week Art Daily* reported that a widespread preservation treatment, developed to help canvases survive humid environments, actually makes paintings more vulnerable when humidity levels soar.** “The wax-resin treatment was enormously popular in Europe and the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s,” says Cecil Krarup Andersen at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, who made the discovery. “Many...

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Wedding Hiatus

Artful Science is in the middle of a two week hiatus as I prepare madly for my imminent wedding. (Yay!) In the meantime, it seems somewhat fitting to direct you to a previous post about mysterious green stains on a WW2-era wedding dress. Also, since my silver wedding dress makes me look pretty much like a space bride (but thankfully *not* this one), I figure a post on spacesuit conservation is also a propos. Artful Science will be...

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Sweat-Stained Artifacts

We all sweat. Some of us do it rather profusely, particularly when life suddenly gets a tad more exciting or stressful than usual. Such as on your wedding day. Or during military combat. Or on your coronation day—if you happen to be royalty. Clothing worn during historically important events often finds its way to museums, and that’s when a textile conservator will take a good look—and possibly a deep sniff—in an outfit’s armpit...

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Arsenic Contamination Of Artifacts

A few weeks ago I got to touch the hairy underbelly of an armadillo. Even though it hadn’t been alive for some time, I was still pretty chuffed about the whole experience—I mean, it’s unlikely I’ll ever have such an intimate moment with an armadillo again. The beast in question had been briefly removed from its basement cupboard home at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as part of a behind-the-scenes tour during the recent...

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Greening Up Conservation Science

Cultural heritage is important so valuable art and artifacts should be protected at any cost, right? Not so, says May Cassar, the director of the Center for Sustainable Heritage at University College London. Most museum, galleries and archives take it as a given that air conditioning and pollution filtration are a must for keeping valuable collections in comfortable living conditions, she says. “But air conditioning and particularly...

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Dating Silk With Some Fluffy (But Good) Science

Scientists at the Smithsonian have come up with a new way to figure out the age of ancient silk artifacts, such as flags, clothing and tapestries, using just a bit of fluff that’s fallen off the valuable textiles. The only other scientific way to date silk is by carbon-14 dating, which requires about 100 times more sample than the new technique. (There’s another out-dated “stress-strain measurement” test, which...

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