NCPTT’s Materials Conservation Program works in partnership with parks, laboratories, government agencies, universities and others to understand how cultural objects deteriorate with time.
The program’s goals are
- to understand cultural resources decay,
- to develop and evaluate new treatments to protect cultural resources and
- to disseminate scientific results and preservation technologies through presentations, publications, and training for preservation professionals nationwide.
A special interest within the program is the study of outdoor air pollution effects on cultural materials. Research projects are developed internally at the NCPTT Environmental Exposure Facility located on the campus of Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana, and externally through cooperative and interagency agreements, contracts and grants.
Partnering to Protect
The Materials Conservation Program seeks partnerships within both the public and private sector to collaborate on projects of mutual interest that advance preservation technology. For example, The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for Federal Properties across the country including many historic buildings. Currently they are establishing policies for the maintenance and treatment of terrazzo flooring found in may of these buildings. They lack the expertise to scientifically evaluate treatments. Together, the Materials Conservation Program and the GSA have joined to study and evaluate treatments such as vitriciation of terrazzo floors.
In order to understand the complex interactions of air pollution with materials, the Materials Conservation Program helped to develop a unique recirculating exposure chamber that allows us to expose materials such as stone or metal samples to air pollution under controlled conditions. Using this chamber, the uptake of pollution on surfaces can be measured. Researchers can look at how different features of the material affect pollution deposition and develop new treatments to minimize damage to materials. Currently, the program has initiated partnerships with organizations like DuPont Corporation to test new treatments for limestone and marble. The treatments may include stone strengtheners, pollutant repellents, or surface protectants.
Meeting the Needs of Preservation
In addition to our laboratory research, we actively look at preservation issues in the field. For example, the program is examining technical issues associated with the preservation of historic cemetery monuments. New technical approaches in cemetery preservation range from advances in databases and geographical information systems to new treatments to deter biological growth on stone. As we evaluate new treatments and methodologies, we seek field test sites for further trials. Based on our research, we offer cemetery monument conservation workshops advancing the latest knowledge in cemetery preservation.