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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.
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. proposed a "three-in-one" test, where all three metal coupons shared one container, simplifying the procedure. Robinet and Thickett  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
- Studies in Conservation, Vol. 44, No. 2 (1999), pp. 86-90.
- Studies in Conservation, Vol. 48, No. 4 (2003), pp. 263-268.
One of the main issues with the Oddy test is that there is some subjectivity to the interpretation of the results, 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.
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:
- Exhibition Fabrics
- Case Construction Materials
- Exhibition Adhesives and Tapes
- Exhibition Paints and Sealants
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
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- 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.
- Robinet, L, and D. Thickett. 2003. A New Methodology for Accelerated Corrosion Testing. Studies in Conservation 48 (4): 263-268.
- 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
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- 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
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