The concept underpinning the project is that long-term conservation of contemporary cultural heritage can only be based on an in-depth comprehension of the degradation mechanisms that affect art materials, in line with the call topic scope. Our experience shows that the physico-chemical compatibility of restoration materials with the original art materials, is a fundamental requirement to minimize the risks of unpredictable side effects [P. Baglioni, D. Chelazzi eds.; Nanoscience for the conservation of works of art, RSC Publishing, London, 2013; p. 49-76 [and references therein]].
The ground-breaking nature of our research can be more easily outlined by focussing on specific issues. As an example, restoration treatments such as pH modification, cleaning, consolidation, and preservation of plastic sculptures or plastic objects represent one of the most challenging issues in the conservation of contemporary art. In fact, a wide variety of plastic materials, found in art collections, are already in urgent need of attention, while many others (around 75% [Y. Shashoua and Ward, In Preprints of Resins, Ancient and Modern, M.Wright & J.H. Townsend eds., 1995, 33-37]) show instability, e.g. yellowing and embrittlement [G. Pastorelli, C. Cucci, O. Garcia, G. Piantanida, A. Elnaggar, M. Cassar, M. Strlic, Environmentally induced colour change during natural degradation of selected polymers http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.polymdegradstab.2013.11.007].
These objects require treatment in order to avoid further rapid degradation due to autocatalytic processes following an induction period.
It is worth noticing that autocatalytic degradation processes are often sudden and early degradation stages are not easily perceived by conservators, delaying the conservation intervention. In fact, the project will also target the production of advanced systems for the detection of degradation processes at early stages, together with the development of new restoration materials.
The main conservation challenges that will be addressed in the project are:
Conservation challenge 1 - Cleaning of contemporary painted and plastic surfaces (CC1)
Conservation challenge 2 - Stabilization of canvases and painted layers in contemporary art (CC2)
Conservation challenge 3 - Removal of unwanted modern materials (CC3)
Conservation challenge 4 - Enhanced protection of artworks in museums and outdoors (CC4)