Scientific Research

staff doing laboratory research
The combined components of the initiative's scientific research program aim for a better understanding of the response of hygroscopic materials to climatic fluctuations at both the micro and macro scale. Laboratory research together with studies in the field will generate scientific and empirical data that will identify more precisely under which conditions irreversible damage occurs as a result of climatic agents of deterioration.

Although there is already a substantial amount of data that supports a shift to less stringent climate requirements, it is often argued that most of the results have been obtained in a laboratory environment by testing artificially aged samples or simplified mock-ups of objects. These do not represent acutely enough what happens to naturally aged objects, which are in general more complex in combining different materials in a specific construction. The existing general model of damage caused by climate fluctuations fails to consider irregularities and flaws in real objects. Collection simulation models using finite element modelling (FEM) address these deficiencies, but lack data about the distribution of stress concentration factors in real objects.
Therefore in response to the identified need for more research on real objects in real conditions, laboratory research on a micro scale will be combined with empirical studies of climate-induced damage in the field. The initiative's laboratory research focuses specifically on the effects of aging on the mechanical properties of paints, subjecting cross section samples of objects (naturally aged) to micro- and nano-indentation technology. The data from the micro-scale research can be scaled up to macro level by combining it with data from other mechanical research techniques (e.g., tensile strength testing), to determine the local stress intensity factors of real objects. Collaboration with a partnering research institution(s) with experience in finite element modelling (FEM), this may result in better modeling, possibly including fatigue cycling.
It is recognized that invaluable data can be obtained from objects themselves, studies in the field generate empirical data that can, when combined with climate data, identify more precisely under which conditions irreversible damage occurs as a result of climatic agents of deterioration. This epidemiology study depends strongly on the conservation community, which will contribute anecdotal and real evidence. As a first step, a framework is being established to access the correlation, causality, credibility, and uncertainty of anecdotal evidence for environmental damage.
An example, this kind of study was undertaken in the historic house museum of Our Lord in the Attic.

statue of St.Paul  detail of statue 
Left: Statue of St. Paul (right) , Our Lord in the Attic Museum (1888-1890). Right: Detail of the statue in 2006. Photos: Our Lord in the Attic Museum and B. Ankersmit, RCE.
To complete the scientific component of the initiative, MCE will research the advanced deployment of sensors. It would be hugely beneficial if objects can more easily be monitored in situ for signs of stress in fluctuating climatic conditions. By plotting climatic data and the object's behavior simultaneously, long periods of response and relaxation can be associated. MCE will investigate the applicability of displacement-type sensors that can be mounted inconspicuously to objects, as well as explore novel developments in sensor technology in other fields of research, for example in health science.

Last updated: April 2014