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Preventive conservation is the process of determining those environmental factors that can cause deterioration to works of art (including paintings, photographs decorative arts, buildings, monuments and archaeological sites), then implementing or applying environmental improvements that can mitigate and in some cases prevent future damage.

Outdoor environmental factors that can damage buildings, monuments and archaeological sites include rain, wind, salt content in soil, sunlight, humidity, temperature, and so on.

Indoor environmental factors that can cause damage to objects in collections or storage (or to the buildings themselves) include lighting, volatile organic compounds off gassing (from either the object itself or perhaps the drawer the object is placed in), airborne pollutants, temperature, humidity, shocks and vibrations, and more.

 

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GCI Science's role in this area of research involves the design of instruments that can accurately monitor changes in environmental conditions over time that have significant impact on a work of art. This type of monitoring allows scientists to observe what direct and indirect effect changes in temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions have on an object or collection of objects, and then, based on these results, make recommendations to conservators and others on to protect the object or objects from further damage.

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GCI Science's past achievements in preventive conservation research include the development of nitrogen-based anoxic treatment for the control of insect pests in collections and the design of oxygen-free, inert gas-filled, hermetically sealed display and storage cases that can protect objects of art from environmental damage, such as microbiological activity and oxidation. The anoxic treatment has provided cultural institutions a safe, simple, and effective alternative to traditional toxic fumigations that may be no longer permitted. And cases designed by the GCI can be found protecting many important historical treasures around the world, including the Royal Mummy Collection in Egypt; the Declaration of Arbroath in Scotland; and the Constitution of India in New Delhi. Case designs are provided to the institution and they in turn can have the cases constructed locally. The cases are designed to be built at low cost with very little maintenance or servicing required.

Current GCI Science research projects in this area:


Last updated: June 2009