Oddy Test

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The Oddy test is a procedure created at the British Museum by conservation scientist Andrew Oddy in 1973, in order to test materials for safety in and around art objects. Often, materials for construction are evaluated for safety. However, though materials may be safe for building purposes, they may emit faint amounts of chemicals that can harm art objects over time. Acids, formaldehydes, and other fumes can damage and even destroy delicate artifacts if placed too close.


Basic layout of a three-in-one Oddy Test

This test calls for a sample of the material in question to be placed in a container with three coupons of different metals - silver, lead, and copper. The container is sealed with a small amount of water to maintain a high humidity, then heated at 60 degrees Celsius for 28 days. An identical container with three metal coupons acts as a control.

If the metal coupons show no signs of corrosion, then the material is deemed suitable to be placed in and around art objects. The Oddy test is not a contact test, but is for testing off-gassing. Each metal detects a different set of corrosive agents:

  • The silver is for detecting reduced sulfur compounds and carbonyl sulfides.
  • The lead is for detecting organic acids, aldehyde, and acidic gases.
  • The copper is for detecting chloride, oxide, and sulfur compounds.

There are many types of materials testing for other purposes, including chemical testing and physical testing.


The Oddy test has gone through many changes and refinements over time. Whereas Andrew Oddy proposed to place each metal coupon in a separate glass container with the material to be tested, Bamberger et al.[1] proposed a "three-in-one" test, where all three metal coupons shared one container, simplifying the procedure. Robinet and Thickett [2] refined the "three-in-one" test by stabilizing the metal coupons.

View detailed information on the Oddy Test Protocols used at various institutions that have contributed to the AIC wiki.

See the Wikipedia site:Oddy Test


  1. Studies in Conservation, Vol. 44, No. 2 (1999), pp. 86-90.
  2. Studies in Conservation, Vol. 48, No. 4 (2003), pp. 263-268.

Evaluating results

One of the main issues with the Oddy test is that there is some subjectivity to the interpretation of the results,[1] since it is primarily a visual determination. If the metal coupons show no signs of corrosion, then the material is deemed suitable to be placed near art objects. The Oddy test is not a contact test, but is for testing off-gassing.

Example of results compared to control coupons
Oddy tests in the oven

Members of AIC have begun an Oddy Test Materials Database on the AIC wiki and believe that even though the test may be subjective, that by sharing protocols and images of results, conservators can consider the results themselves for their own purposes. Results have been organized into four pages:

More information on how to use the data and participate in creating additional entries in the Conservation Materials database is given on the Oddy Tests: Materials Databases page

Comprehensive Bibliography

  1. Baker, W., K. McCauley, and J. Tsang. 2015. Sustaining the Unsustainable: Mitigation and Monitoring for Modern Materials. AIC News 40 (5): 1, 3-6.
  2. Bamberger, J. 2003. "The Oddy test improved." Met objectives 4, no. 2 (Spring): 4.
  3. Bamberger, J., E. Howe, and G. Wheeler. 1999. "A variant Oddy test procedure for evaluating material used in storage and display cases." Studies in Conservation. 44: 86-90.
  4. Beiner, G. G., M. Lavi, H. Seri, A. Rossin, O. Lev, J. Gun, and R. Rabinovich. 2015. "Oddy tests: adding the analytical dimension." Collection forum 29, no. 1-2: 22-36.
  5. Blackshaw, S. 1982. “The Testing of Display Materials.” Conservation Museum Ethnographers” Group Occasional Paper, 40–45, March 1.
  6. Blackshaw, S., and V. Daniels. 1978. “Selecting Safe Materials for Use in the Display and Storage of Antiquities.” In The 5th Triennial Meeting of the ICOM Committee for Conservation Preprints, 78/23/2/1-78/23/2/9.
  7. Blackshaw, S. and V. Daniels. 1979. "The testing of materials for use in storage and display in "museums. The Conservator 3: 16-19.
  8. Bischoff, J. J., J. Bustamente, C. Reedy, R. A. Corbett, and M. S. Walton. 2003. "From an idea of creativity to a product of reliability: update of research on electrochemical testing of exhibit and storage materials." OSG postprints- AIC Annual Meeting: 11-21.
  9. Breitung, E. 2014. “Evaluating Storage Materials for Cultural Heritage Alternatives to the Oddy Test”, Lecture Given at the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6580.
  10. Chen, R., L. Moussa, H. R. Morris, and P. M. Whitmore. 2007. "Silver nanoparticle films as sulfide gas sensors in Oddy tests." In Book, Materials issues in art and archaeology VIII: symposium held November 26-28, 2007, Boston, Massachusetts, USA: 287-297.
  11. Chen, H., L. Kong, J. Chen, S. Wang, L. Wu, and X. Zhou. 2009. "Metal film coupon test for evaluation and selection of materials used in museum objects" Wen wu bao hu yu kao gu ke xue 21: 40-47.
  12. Chen, H., M. Zhang, J. Chen, L. Kong, J. Zhou, S. Wang, L. Wu, and X. Zhou. 2009. "Application of silver nano-film coupon in selection of materials for the storage or display of museum objects." Wen wu bao hu yu kao gu ke xue 21: 33-39.
  13. Coughlin, M. 2011. "Monitoring acidic off-gassing of plastics." Conserve o gram, 8/5.
  14. Garside, P., and L. Hanson. 2012. "A systematic approach to selecting inexpensive conservation storage solutions." International preservation news: a newsletter of the IFLA Programme on Preservation and Conservation no. 57 (Aug): 26-30.
  15. Green, L. R., and D. Thickett. 1993. "Interlaboratory comparison of the Oddy test." Conservation science in the UK: preprints of the meeting held in Glasgow, May 1993. London: James & James Science Publishers Ltd. 111-116.
  16. Green, L. R., and D. Thickett.1993. "Interlaboratory survey of pH measurements and Oddy tests." Conservation Research Section report no. 1993/34. The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_publications.aspx.
  17. Green, L. R., and D. Thickett.1995. "Testing materials for use in the storage and display of antiquities - a revised "methodology. Studies in Conservation 40: 145-152.
  18. Hernandez, C. 2013.The green challenge: Incorporating sustainable practices and materials into collections care. M.A. thesis, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
  19. Hodgkins, R. E., S. A. Centeno, J. A. Bamberger, M. Tsukada, and A. Schrott. 2013. "Silver nanofilm sensors for assessing daguerreotype housing materials in an Oddy test setup." e-Preservation science 10: 71-76.
  20. Korenberg, C., M. Keable, J. Phippard, and A. Doyle. 2017. "Refinements Introduced in the Oddy Test Methodology." Studies in Conservation, DOI: 10.1080/00393630.2017.1362177. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00393630.2017.1362177
  21. Lee, S., H. Roh, and Y. Yi. 2004. "Effects of wood materials on metal corrosion – Oddy test." Conservation Science in Museum 5:31-36.
  22. Nicholson, C., and E. O’Loughlin. 1996. “The Use of A-D Strips for Screening Conservation and Exhibit Materials”, Poster presented at the American Institute for Conservation 24th Annual Meeting, Norfolk Virginia, June 10–16. http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/bpg/annual/ v15/bp15-11.html.
  23. Nguyen, T. P., E. le Bourg, S. Bouvet, and V. Rottier. 2011. "Optimisation of the quality control of cellulosic materials used for the conservation and storage of paper-based cultural heritage, based on the emissions of volatiles." In Book. ICOM-CC 16th triennial conference Lisbon 19-23 September 2011: preprints.
  24. Oddy, W. A. 1973. "An unsuspected danger in display." Museum Journal 73:27-28.
  25. Photographic Activity Test. https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/testing/pat
  26. Pretzel, B., and N. Shibayama. 2003. "Standard materials for corrosiveness testing." V & A conservation journal no. 43 (Spring): 7-9. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/conservation-journal/issue-43/standard-materials-for-corrosiveness-testing/
  27. Reedy, C. L., R. A. Corbett, and M. Burke. 1998. “Electrochemical Tests as Alternatives to Current Methods for Assessing Effects of Exhibition Materials on Metal Artifacts.” Studies in Conservation 43 (3): 183–196.
  28. Robinet, L, and D. Thickett. 2003. A New Methodology for Accelerated Corrosion Testing. Studies in Conservation 48 (4): 263-268.
  29. Samide, M. J., and G. D. Smith. 2015. "Analysis and quantitation of volatile organic compounds emitted from plastics used in museum construction by evolved gas analysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (EGA-GC-MS)." Journal of Chromatography A
  30. Smith, G. D., and C. Snyder. 2008. "Something ‘odd’ about the Oddy test." ICOM-CC Preprints, 15th Triennial Conference New Delhi, 22-26 September 2008: 887.
  31. Tétrault, J. 1999. Coatings for Display and Storage in Museums. Canadian Conservation Institute Technical Bulletin 21. https://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/resources-ressources/publication s/downloads/technicalbulletins/eng/TB21-CoatingsforDisp layandStorageinMuseums.pdf.
  32. Thickett, D. 1992. "The iodide-iodate test - further work." Conservation research report, no. 1992/30. The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_publications.aspx
  33. Thickett, D. 1993. "Evaluation of sealing methods for Oddy tests containers." Conservation Research Section report no. 1993/24. The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_publications.aspx.
  34. Thickett, D. 2016. “An Unexpected Danger with ISO16000 Emission Tests.” Paper presented at the Indoor Air Quality 2016 Conference, Birmingham, March 3–4.
  35. Thickett, D., and L. R. Green. 1992. "Re-evaluation of materials' testing procedures - Part II. The Azide test for the presence of reducible sulphides." Conservation research report, no. 1992/26. The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_publications.aspx
  36. Thickett, D., and L. R. Lee. 1996/2004. "Selection of Materials for the Storage or Display of Museum Objects." British Museum Occasional Paper 111. http://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/OP_111%20selection_of_materials_for_the_storage_or_display_of_museum_objects.pdf
  37. Trinkley, M. 2004. "Monitoring for gaseous pollutants, made simple?." The Abbey newsletter 27, no. 2: 15-16.
  38. Tsukada, M., A. Rizzo, and C. Granzotto. 2012. "A New Strategy for Assessing Off-Gassing from Museum Materials: Air Sampling in Oddy Test Vessels." AIC News, January 2012, vol 37, no.1:1, 3-7. [2]
  39. Wang, S., L. Kong, Z. An, J. Zhisheng, J. Chen, L. Wu, and X. Zhou, 2011. "An improved Oddy test using metal films." Studies in conservation 56, no. 2: 138-153
  40. Zhang, J., D. Thickett, and L. R. Green. 1994. "Two tests for the detection of volatile organic acids and formaldehyde." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 33: 47.53.
  41. Zhang, and J. L. Green. 1992. "The iodide-iodate test: a method for detecting volatile organic gases." Conservation research report, no. 1992/16. The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_publications.aspx
  42. Zhang, J. 1992. "Quick detection of volatile organic acid in substances by the iodide-iodate test." Wen wu bao hu yu kao gu ke xue 4, no. 1: 18-24