Materials Testing

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There are various ways to analyze materials to identify and evaluate materials for use near art. Some of these are:

Microchemical Testing[edit | edit source]

Microchemical testing, such as spot tests, can be used to identify materials in art and artifacts

  • Quality of analysis: lower tech, lower cost, longer time, less accurate results.
  • Very limited chemical interactions are tested leading to incomplete characterization of a material.

Accelerated Aging Testing[edit | edit source]

Accelerated aging tests are conducted to predict how a material to be used near or in contact with an artifact will be impacted.

  • Quality of analysis: higher-tech, higher cost, longer time, somewhat accurate results.
  • The identity and amounts of problematic chemicals/components in a material are not identified and only limited chemical interactions are tested leading to generalized evaluations of a material.

Oddy Test[edit | edit source]

The Oddy Test - and its variants - are used to evaluate materials used for storage and display in the museum environment.

Photographic Activity Test[edit | edit source]

The Photographic Activity Test was developed by the Image Permanence Institute and is used to evaluate storage materials for photographs, negatives, slides, motion picture film, etc.

Instrumental Analysis[edit | edit source]

Myriad methods are used to identify or predict the behavior of an material when it is used within the confines of a cultural institution.

  • Quality of analysis: high-tech, high cost, shorter time relative to accelerated aging, more accurate results in terms of identification of compounds present and at what concentration

Key Resources[edit | edit source]

Information regarding materials testing is shared by a variety of groups and organizations.

  • CAMEO: Conservation & Art Material Encyclopedia Online - This site maintained by the Museum of Fine Arts, provides a searchable database of chemical, physical, visual, and analytical information on historic and contemporary materials used in the production and conservation of artistic, architectural, archaeological, and anthropological materials. When material testing data is available Individual material entries on CAMEO link back to the AIC wiki.

  • CAMEO chemical database for hazardous materials - This site is maintained by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Emergency Management and is a database of hazardous chemical datasheets that emergency responders and planners can use to get response recommendations and predict hazards—such as explosions or toxic fumes.

  • SDS - Safety Data Sheets - This site is maintained by Verisk 3E and is the world's most current and comprehensive Safety Data Sheet (SDS) database.

  • The Infrared and Raman Users Group - This site is maintained by an international group of volunteers and its goal has been to improve and expand the infrared (IR) and Raman spectroscopic data generated and shared within the international cultural heritage community.

  • The Mass Spectrometry and Chromatography Users Group - This site is maintained by an international group as a discussion forum for scientists studying cultural heritage materials, who wish to exchange information regarding gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

  • Materials Working Group (MWG) - Formed in 2018, this group is a community of collection care, conservation, natural and applied science, as well as allied professionals united in developing guidelines and best practices for selecting, evaluating, and disseminating materials used in collection care.

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