A senior conservator of icons and a scientist from the National Conservation Centre in Skopje, Macedonia, have approached Heritage Malta for support in the analysis of an icon from their collection. They were also interested to receive a brief introduction about the set up of Heritage Malta’s Diagnostic Science Laboratories (DSL).
In recent years, DSL’s remarkable progress has been recognised internationally. In fact, this is the second time, in slightly over a year, that it was requested to provide training to foreign institutions. In 2017, DSL provided training in scientific technical photography to the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History.
During the two-day scientific visit of the Macedonian visitors, Heritage Malta provided them with training on sample preparation for Scanning Electron Microscopy – Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), analysis of pigments, as well as training on scientific technical photography (STP), fibre optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) and multispectral imaging (MSI) for works of art.
DSL is expertly versed in how to initiate a project non-invasively, that is to record information without sample recovery. These campaigns would then lead a scientist to decide how many and what samples would need to be elevated from an object for more in-depth investigations. The advantages of STP, FORS and MSI provide the means to assess an object and to identify its pigments prior to sampling. This method has the potential to reduce sample taking by 80%, therefore preserving more material from the painting.
DSL’s input was well received by the Macedonian visitors and it ignited interest of having such setups in their lab. They also appreciated how the setup is able to support the majority of cultural heritage objects in Heritage Malta’s collection and beyond. The SEM-EDS analysis brought about some interesting results for them in light of identifying pigments in their icon.
In return for Heritage Malta’s support, the Macedonian experts presented a lecture to DSL staff and conservators from Heritage Malta’s Conservation Division, regarding their experiences with the conservation of icons. They delved deep into the need for a conservator to have knowledge of icons and their manufacture since these pose specific problems during treatment, emanating from their specific manufacturing technique. They also discussed how they tackle preservation, environmental monitoring to stabilise environments in light of these icons’ care, as well as scientific analyses which they have carried out in the past.