Our research addresses the topic of materials in art and cultural artefacts, focusing on such questions as: What materials is a work of art made from? How do these materials change and what are the consequences when it comes to conserving these artefacts? How can materials expertise in art and culture be taught?

Material analyses

Our excellent facilities in the Art Technology Laboratory, our experienced researchers and select methods, some of which were developed in-house, allow us to investigate and establish the materiality of art and cultural artefacts and to document it in text and images, in analogue and digital formats.

  • Investigation and documentation of art and cultural artefacts.
  • Material analysis to determine organic and inorganic components: infrared and Raman spectroscopy, elemental analysis (EDS), thermal analysis (TGA, DSC, CL), UV-Vis spectroscopy.
  • Material testing to ascertain the physical properties of the materials: tensile testing, climate simulation and ageing under exposure to light.
  • Imaging of art and cultural artefacts: radiography, thermography, IR and UV photography, FPA-FTIR imaging, Raman mapping, light microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, polarisation microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.

Investigations using art technology and material semantics

Integral contact with the Conservation and Restoration Division and access to the Art Lab help expand and enhance scientific expertise:

  • Material identification, e.g. examination of paints used (pigments, fillers and binders) and their stratigraphical and chronological sequences.
  • Research of art technology sources.
  • Research into the significance of the materials used.

Classification of damage phenomena and their prevention

Alterations to art and cultural artefacts are not always a sign of damage. It may be desirable, for example, to preserve signs of use or, in historical monuments, reasonable modifications. Here, it is important to investigate the work in depth, classify the changes and, where necessary, suggest conservation or restoration work, which may include preventive conservation measures.

Development of new technologies in the field of art and cultural artefacts

The vast knowledge of materials acquired in the course of preserving art and cultural artefacts and the excellent facilities at HKB offer an ideal basis for developing new technologies in the field of art and cultural artefacts, technologies that could also be used for industrial purposes.

Providing training in materials expertise

At the beginning of the Conservation and Restoration study programme, students are taught the basic principles of academic work. They are introduced to thought processes and writing skills as well as the systems used in practical work. Research-related teaching builds on this. Students prepare a master’s thesis that includes a compulsory research segment and represents the final assignment of the Conservation and Restoration programme. Significantly, materiality-related teaching content is delivered by teaching staff who are also involved in research. This guarantees the optimum transfer of research results.
FSP MA’s participation in the Material Archive and the development of the pARTicip app provide further opportunities to pass on materials expertise.