Institute of Natural Sciences and Technology in the Arts

Featured research (14)

This work will give an overview of the scientific approach used for the study of written heritage on parchment. Elemental analysis using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) together with compound-specific analytical methods such as Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and Raman spectroscopy can be applied in a non-invasive way, without the need for sampling and without inducing changes to the object. Physico-chemical investigations are complemented and further deepened by DNA- and biological analyses for the identification of the biological origin of materials and the identification of microorganisms, insects and viruses that might be present on the object which may add valuable information about its history and conservation state.
This interdisciplinary research on the Kiev folia, a 10th century Slavonic manuscript, shows how material and biological analyses as well as imaging methods can be applied to answer relevant questions that contribute to a better understanding of the history and conservation of ancient manuscripts. By applying non-invasive analytical methods, including X-ray Fluorescence analysis (XRF) and Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy in reflection mode (rFTIR), calcium oxalate related to the degradation phenomena of the ink material was detected, showing rFTIR bands at 1644 cm⁻¹ and 1327 cm⁻¹. Moreover, potassium ferrocyanide was identified on the peculiar blue stains visible on some folios. Multispectral images of these stains improved the legibility of the underlying letters in the near infrared range. Finally, shotgun metagenomic analyses gave insight into the possible animal origin of the skin(s) used for the manufacture of the codex and the microbiome colonizing its surface. The microbiome consisted mainly of viruses (53%) and bacteria (47%) represented by halotolerant/halophilic bacteria as well as bacteria and viruses typical of the human microbiome. In contrast, the proportion of eukaryotes (0.05%) and archaea (0.07%) was very low. This information served to determine the conservation status and the risk of deterioration of the manuscript.
This study aims to investigate the chemical stability of some modern paint samples exposed to a new Light Emitting Diode (LED)-lighting system and a halogen lamp by using micro-attenuated total reflectance of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (µ-ATR-FTIR), µ-Raman, pyrolysis—gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS), and thermally assisted hydrolysis and methylation of GC/MS (THM-GC/MS). Those investigations were performed before and after the exposure of the samples to lightings for 1250, 2400, 3300, and 5000 h. The results obtained with µ-Raman spectroscopy show the high stability of the selected inorganic pigments after the exposure to the lighting systems; while similar to the UV/Vis/NIR results reported in a previous study, µ-ATR-FTIR and THM-GC/MS results evidence greater chemical changes occurring principally on the linseed oil binder-based mock-ups among the acrylic and alkyd-based samples. Moreover, principal component analyses (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analyses (HCA) of THM-GC/MS results highlight that those changes were mostly dependent on the exposure time and on the type of pigment, while being independent of the lighting system used. Finally, semi-quantitative µ-ATR-FTIR results show slight pigment enrichment at the paint surface due to the auto and photo-oxidative degradation of the linseed oil binder.
The grey silverfish Ctenolepisma longicaudatum is a new and serious pest spreading rapidly across Europe. Compared to the silverfish Lepisma saccharinum , it does not depend on relative humidity above 70% and thrives also in new museum buildings, modern storage depositories, apartments, and office buildings. Especially collections of graphic art, modern art on paper, photographs, but also archives and libraries are increasingly affected by this pest. Damage of paper objects has been reported by different authors and institutions across Europe. As these animals live in inaccessible cracks and crevices inside the buildings, we investigated the spread of microorganisms on living grey silverfish, to show a potential additional threat posed by this pest. In 8 locations in Austria living animals were collected with traps and placed for 10 min on agar plates which were incubated for 2 weeks. After incubation of 50 agar plates, between 2 and 20 colonies of fungi were growing on each plate. The most dominant fungal genera were Cladosporium ( Cladosporium cladosporioides clade) and Penicillium ( Penicillium glabrum, Penicillium decumbens ); also, species of the genera Aspergillus , Alternaria , Botrytis , Bartalinia , Byssochlamis , Chaetomium and Mycothypha were found. The diversity of fungi reflects the common fungal community of museums and archives. The spores and mycelial fragments of the fungi are obviously travelling on the legs and bodies of the silverfish.
Thanks to the revolutionary invention of the polymerase chain reaction and the sequencing of DNA and RNA by means of “Sanger sequencing” in the 1970th and 1980th, it became possible to detect microorganisms in art and cultural assets that do not grow on culture media or that are non-viable. The following generation of sequencing systems (next generation sequencing, NGS) already allowed the detection of microbial communities on objects without the intermediate step of cloning, but still most of the NGS technologies used for the study of microbial communities in objects of art rely on “target sequencing” linked to the selectivity of the primers used for amplification. Today, with the third generation of sequencing technology, whole genome and metagenome sequencing is possible, allowing the detection of taxonomic units of all domains and kingdoms as well as functional genes in the produced metagenome. Currently, Nanopore sequencing technology is a good, affordable, and simple way to characterize microbial communities, especially in the field of Heritage Science. It also has the advantage that a bioinformatic analysis can be performed automatically. In addition to genomics and metagenomics, other “-omics” techniques such as transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics have a great potential for the study of processes in art and cultural heritage, but are still in their infancy as far as their application in this field is concerned.

Lab head

Katja Sterflinger
  • Institute for Natural Sciences and Technology in the Arts (INTK)

Members (1)

Guadalupe Pinar
  • Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien
Manfred Schreiner
Manfred Schreiner
  • Not confirmed yet
Wilfried Wetter
Wilfried Wetter
  • Not confirmed yet