Scientific Research

The initiative's scientific research program aims 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. This helps to determine whether permanent damage occurs in susceptible materials while exposed to broader climatic ranges currently under consideration, and to understand the rate and degree of fluctuation they can withstand.

Mechanical Properties Research

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. Simulation models using finite element modeling (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 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 samples of (naturally aged) objects 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 FEM, this may result in better modeling, possibly including fatigue cycling.


It is recognized that invaluable data can be obtained from objects themselves, which when combined with scientific data, identify more precisely under which conditions irreversible damage occurs as a result of climatic fluctuations. The GCI is joining other institutions in researching the impact of climatic fluctuations on collections. Over the last few decades valuable data has been collected by several conservation scientists and conservators. MCE is looking at ways in which the findings of similar projects could be synergized. Epidemiology seems to be a logical approach to help identify more precisely the conditions under which irreversible damage occurs as a result of climatic agents of deterioration. Applied to cultural heritage, an epidemiological approach can identify how a physical condition or environmentally driven adverse effect is distributed in museum collections.

Advanced Deployment of Sensors

Research on the advanced deployment of sensors would be hugely beneficial if objects could be more easily 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 nondestructive direct tracing techniques such as acoustic emission that can be mounted inconspicuously to objects.

Last updated: October 2015