Eleven projects for preservation cultural heritage

16 December 2015

Within the first call for proposals by NICAS (Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science), six full proposals and five seed money proposals have been granted. One of the full proposals is funded by the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE). The budget for this first round amounted 1.5 million euros, by NWO, for collaborations between scientists and museums.

Minister Bussemaker is introduced to the research within NICAS

NICAS combines art history and art conservation with natural sciences. The institute is an initiative of NWO Physical Sciences, in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, the Cultural Heritage Agency, the University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology. The institute strives for improvement of quality when it comes to the interpretation, preservation and presentation of artworks.

The awarded research proposals

Metals reveal origin art works
Prof.  G.R. Davies, VU University
Partners: University of Konstanz, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam,
Cultural Heritage Agency
Within this project, researchers will develop new expertise and tools that enable the establishment of the 'geochronology' of the diffusion of several metals. This provides the historical context for object analysis to establish time and place of production. An innovative feature of the project is the link between isotopic data (properties of the metals used) and the history of trade and manufacture of raw materials to specific production centers how, when and where these materials were used.

Deterioration of binding materials
Prof. P.D. Iedema, University of Amsterdam
Partners: Cultural Heritage Agency, University of Amsterdam, Eindhoven University of Technology

Oil paintings contain inorganic materials that degrade over time. This results in visible changes in the painting, such as discoloration. In this project the researchers are studying changes that occur in pigment-binding materials such as linseed oil. With this knowledge the researchers aim to develop a predictive model that can be used to make choices for the restoration of paintings.

Evolution of painting styles
Prof. M. Worring, University of Amsterdam
Partner: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The aim of this research project is to develop a semi-automated system that can evaluate the evolution of painting styles in time. The researchers incorporate knowledge about the creative process and the properties of used materials in a computer model. That model should help art historians to find similar works in large collections of paintings, which for example originate from the same period or were produced at the same location. The resulting tools will be made available as open source software to the community.

Shedding new light on still lives

Prof. J.F.J.H. Stumpel, Utrecht University
Partner: Delft University of Technology

The goal of this project is to reach a better understanding of techniques, procedures for production, and uses of materials that constitute artistic mastery in still life painting in the Golden Age. Historical reconstructions are combined with scientific and computational analysis of surface textures under different lighting conditions. In addition, image recognition techniques are used to compare known structures from different periods with each other.

Ageing of adhesives
J.A. Poulis Ph.D, Delft University of Technology
Partners: Permacol BV, Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg, Unversity of Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Cultural Heritage Agency - department of knowledge distribution

Adhesives have been used in the conservation of cultural objects for many centuries. They are used to re-adhere fragments or to consolidate flaking or fragile materials. In general it is not known how these materials age over time, and how this ageing process influences their adhesive properties and colour. This project studies the chemical and physical aging properties of adhesives. This knowledge can be used to make choices which adhesive to use to repair specific works of art.

Insights into inks
E.B.M. Hinterding Ph.D., Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Rembrandt has not only produced an extensive oeuvre of paintings, but also a wealth of ink drawings. In this project, state-of-the-art optical techniques are used to characterize some of these ink drawings. Data on the composition of the ink and the interaction between ink and paper are combined in a model that can be used to date these drawings, and to determine whether or not an ink is really made by Rembrandt himself. Lastly, novel visualization techniques will be designed and developed to visualize drawings as a process.
(Granted by the Cutural Heritage Agency)

The awarded seed proposals

Value of evidence
M.J.N. Stols-Witlox Ph.D., University of Amsterdam
Partner: Netherlands Forensic Institute

To answer questions about authenticity and age of artworks, art historians nowadays have access to a multiplicity of techniques. In addition to the analysis of the style used and archive research, also X-ray imaging, isotopes research and other optical techniques provide information about a work of art. But what information is most important? The researchers use a technique used in mathematics, Bayesian networks, in order to quantify the value of each piece of evidence.

Organic polymers on metal
J.M.C. Mol Ph.D., Delft University of Technology
Partners: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam

The goal of this project is to gain more knowledge about degradation mechanisms of organic polymers such as paint on metal objects. Organic polymers are used not only to decorate items, but also sometimes serve as a coating protecting the underlying metal from corrosion. Over time, the polymer often decays. Sometimes it's not even apparent that there used to be a paint layer covering the metal. To return a piece of art to its original state, it is essential to figure out which layers it used to contain.

Delftware glaze
J. van Campen Ph.D., Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Partners: Cultural Heritage Agenc  - department of knowledge distribution, Colour4Free, Restauratieatelier Mandy Slager, University of Amsterdam

This project focuses on the types of glaze used on Delftware objects. Understanding of the composition of the glaze is necessary in order to be able to restore an object in such a way that it regains its original colour. With laser techniques, the composition of different glazes is analysed. With the aid of neural networks, the original colour of an object covered with a specific glaze layer will be calculated.

Let the gilt leather shine
R.M. Groves Ph.D., Delft University of Technology
Partners: Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg, University of Amsterdam, Cultural Heritage Agency

Gilt leather consists of a leather substrate, often embossed  with several decorative surface layers composed of animal glue, silver leaf, egg white, and a yellow colored lacquer - creating the golden appearance. Earlier conservation treatments used oils and waxes, which caused the decorations to become matte and dark. This project studies degradation of the different compounds, to be able to develop a better strategy for preservation.

Metal objects, paintings and photos
Prof. M. Tromp, university of Amsterdam
Partner: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

What did metal parts of art works such as sculptures, paintings and photos originally look like? And how we can ensure that their appearance remains stable? To answer these questions, the scientists are investigating a number of objects with optical techniques such as X-ray imaging. In this way they want to study the changing material properties of the metal during cleaning, aging and under different environmental conditions.

Source: NWO