SUMMARY OF THE
To understand the correlation between pollutant concentration and artefact damage a database is to be constructed to collate data on previous, and future, sampling experiments. It will contain information from 1) laboratory simulation experiments and 2) phenomenological research, e.g., interpreting data of field studies. The database will also include details about:
1. CONCENTRATION-DAMAGE SURVEY DATABASE
- Objects : composition, history, treatments, condition, length of display
- Environmental conditions : relative humidity, temperature, pollutants concentrations
- Materials used for storage or display cabinets
- Corrosion products, if observed (composition, extent)
Initially, data obtained from previous sampling studies will be collated. Project participants include; Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), University of Strathlcyde (UoS), University of Oxford-Brookes (UoOB), University of East Anglia (UoEA), Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (NICH), The National Museums of Scotland (NMS), The British Museum (BM), The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), The Museum of London (MoL), the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI).
Aspects to be considered:
- Should the laboratory that did the analysis be mentioned with the results? As long as there is no inter-laboratory standardisation one will at least need to know whether results come from the same laboratory or from different laboratories.
- Data from measurements in museums should be entered anonymously or coded, as not all museums are willing to be identified with the data. The analysing institution, that provides the data to the database, is responsible for checking with the museum whether data can be published and for safeguarding anonymity.
- Can the database holder expect legal trouble? No, not when judgements are made concerning results. Nevertheless, legal advice should be sought before starting the project.
- Do third parties have direct access to the database and can they use the results? Most probably yes, as long as the user refers to the database if they present the data in publications or reports.
- The analysing institutions take no responsibility for the results and their use.
- All enquiries should go through the database holder.
- All concentrations should be reported in parts per billion 10-9, commonly used by conservators) and mg/m3 (commonly used in scientific literature).
DECISIONS AND ACTIONS
- A format will be made for supplying information that is to be included in the database.
The persons having performed most analysis so far will discuss the design of the format. Cecily Grzywacz will make the first draft and discuss it with the core group plus Nigel Blades.
- Simon Watts, who will seek legal advice from Oxford-Brookes on how it should be worded, will draft a document of confidentiality.
- All participants should wait until they are in receipt of an information questionnaire that they will be asked to return.
- Cecily Grzywacz, GCI, Los Angeles, USA may collate the database information.
- The core group will petition the GCI for funds to award a student project to prepare and collate sampling information. Agnes Brokerhof will draft a letter to the GCI.
- Groups involved are: GCI, UoS, NICH, O-BU, UoEA, BM, (V&A ??), NMS, ROM, NT, MoL, CCI.
2. MATERIALS DATABASE
One of the questions most often asked by museums seeking advice is which materials are safe to use for the construction of storage and display facilities. Various institutes and museums have their own recommended lists of materials as well as their test results, however, there is no publically and easily accessible list. A database will be constructed and used to collate the information from a number of participating institutes including; the Building Research Establishment (BRE), BM, CCI, GCI, NICH, ROM, MoL, NMS and V&A. The proposed database, which will be accessible to all museums, will include post-1995 and future testing results for materials which have been deemed 'safe'for short-term and long-term use in proximity to artefacts.
Aspects to be considered:
- Should there be a cut-off date? The BM considers pre-1995 data out-dated. Others are not so concerned about using old data, as long as the date of testing is specified. In that case the one consulting the list can decide how to interpret the test results.
- Materials that pass the tests can be mentioned with the trade name and name of the manufacturer. Materials that fail the test will not be entered into the database.
- Nonetheless, legal advice should be sought.
- Even though a material has been tested as suitable for museum use, a new batch of the same product may have a different composition and can be unsuitable. Therefore, materials should be re-tested before use and old test results need to be updated.
- CCI (Williams and Tétreault) are working on a Technical Bulletin on materials for storage and display. A publication is to be expected in the year 2000.
- Extra effort should be put into communicating information on suitability of materials to designers and architects who chronically lack the conservators concern about emission of gases.
- Much work on determination of emission of compounds harmful to human health has been carried out already in the field of commercial building materials. This data could be integrated in the materials database. Derrick Crump can be the contact person for the museums.
- It should be specified whether materials were tested in a contact or non-contact situation.
DECISIONS AND ACTIONS
- The Materials Database will be a positive result database.
- All previous results from the participating groups will be collated. Only data post 1994 will be included.
- Groups involved are: UoEA, GCI, NICH, BM, (V&A ??), NMS, ROM, MoL, (the Horniman ??), CCI.
- Other holders of existing lists will be contacted to share their information, such as 'Care of Collections Forum' and SPHNC.
- Participants should wait until they are in receipt of a questionnaire asking for specific information.
- The central person to collect data for the materials database is Nigel Blades, University of East Anglia, Norwich.
- Simon Watts will seek legal advice (see also point 1 above).
- The laboratory that performed the test will be included in the database, as will information about the test method used (protocols).
3. STANDARDISATION OF MUSEUM AIR SAMPLING METHODS FOR ORGANIC CARBONYL POLLUTANTS
Various sampling methods (passive and active), are currently used to assess museum atmospheres and/or environments. It is imperative that the data obtained from the different methods provide similar results if deployed in the same location. To achieve this objective the methods must be validated to ensure correct performance. This requires the development of 'Standard Operating Protocols' (SOPs). At present several researchers are involved in developing experiments (both in the laboratory and in the field) to assess the performance of commonly used low molecular weight organic acid and formaldehyde monitors. Participants include; UoS, UoEA, UoOB, GCI, NICH, BRE. The aim of the comparison is to ensure that, when applied properly, the results of the various methods are intercomparable. A museum can then choose to implement their preferred sampling method with confidence.
4. STANDARDISATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL CHAMBERS TO TEST STORAGE AND DISPLAY MATERIALS.
There is a need to test display and construction materials prior to their use in museums to ensure corrosive gases are not emitted from the materials which pose a risk to the preservation of objects. Many commercial building materials have been assessed, with respect to human health, on a national and international level, (for example see BSI, ISO and European. A similar approach with regard to materials damage would be invaluable to the conservation field to ensure the best museum environments for collections. Although simple qualitative tests do exist (for example the Oddy Test, the sodium azide test for reduced sulfides, the chromotropic acid test for formaldehyde etc.), the results may take as long as a few weeks to obtain, do not always provide quantitative, or pollutant specific, information. A middle ground approach is required; one that permits usage of simple, efficient and perhaps pseudo-quantitative tests that can be validated by intercomparative laboratory tests. Advice is being sought from the BRE, focusing particularly on the European Standards that exist for the determination of off-gassed formaldehyde from materials and products.
5. THRESHOLD LEVELS
While the correlation between pollutant concentration level and artefact damage is not well enough understood, at present, a realistic target for museums to aim for should be indoor levels that equal outdoor levels in clean (non-urban) environments.
The aim of defining threshold concentrations is not to issue such strict levels that even the most sensitive material will be safeguarded from pollutant damage, but to set reasonable levels that will benefit the majority of the more artefacts. Lower levels may be specified for extremely susceptible materials when research or experience shows that this is necessary. In this respect pollutant levels show similarities with guidelines for light levels.
Although the correlation between pollutant levels and artefact damage is not yet completely understood, experiences have shown that certain materials (metals and calcareous materials) are more sensitive to carbonyls than others. This allows us to take measures to protect these materials, for example, storing them separately in cleaner surroundings (metal cabinets) than the rest of the collection, and enables efficient inspection of collections.
For the time being the study into mitigation methods and preventive conservation relies on individual research initiatives and publications. Research is currently being conducted by Dr. Mike Morris at UCC to obtain an efficient acetic acid scavenger.
7. FOLLOW UP
The conference participants have agreed to form a working group of conservators and scientists with shared interests. The aims of the group are to raise awareness for indoor pollution and advocate the ongoing research, to conduct evaluation of sampling techniques, to investigate the correlation between damage and pollutant concentration/dose and to provide solutions to avoid and reduce risk and damage to artefacts.
The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage has offered to host the next meeting in Amsterdam : Detection and Mitigation of Organic Carbonyl Pollutants '99. It is currently planned to proceed the ICOM-CC triennial meeting in Lyon, France. Information will follow in due course.
Index of presentations at IAP 1998 meeting
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