Oddy Test

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Introduction

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.

Setup

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.

Protocols

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

Oddy-class-B.jpg

  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

Bibliography

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  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.
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  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.
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