New techniques for ancient materials

Scientific investigation of cultural objects and their degradation processes by synchrotron and simulation techniques


  • Departement Hochschule der Künste Bern
  • Forschungsschwerpunkt Materialität in Kunst und Kultur
  • Forschungsfeld -
  • Förderorganisation Swiss National Science Foundation
  • Laufzeit 01.03.2012 - 29.02.2016
  • Projektverantwortung Claire Gervais
  • Projektleitung Claire Gervais
  • Projektmitarbeitende Mathieu Jacot-Guillarmod
    Giulia Moretti
  • Mitwirkende Projektpartner Forschungsinstitutionen inkl. BFH University of Bern, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Switzerland
    IPANEMA SOLEIL synchroton/CNRS, France
    Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, MCI, USA
    CRCC (Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation des Collections), France

About this project

From a material point of view, objects of cultural heritage ‘have it all’: they are complex, composite, often precious and fragile, generally with an unknown material history. Their conservation is, however, of primary importance, as they offer testimonies of human history, culture and art.

The analysis of cultural objects requires the use of state-of-the-art, non-destructive techniques that maximize the amount of information usually contained in a tiny, precious sample generally composed of a complex and composite material. Synchrotron techniques and computational tools are two promising approaches to reach this goal. Although powerful and employed more and more in the cultural heritage community, their sophistication requires an expertise that may hamper their full exploitation.

In this research, we intend to focus on the characterization of the physico-chemical processes taking place during the degradation, specifically by means of state-of-the-art synchrotron and computational techniques.
The main underlying idea is to provide general, fundamental knowledge about the materials of which the cultural objects are constituted, about their degradation processes and their sensitivity to the environment – knowledge which in turn can be used by conservation scientists to examine specific cases efficiently.

Detailed information

Further projects by Claire Gervais