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Materiality in the Study and Conservation of Cultural Heritage


Prof. dr. J. (Jørgen) Wadum
Prof. dr. N.H. (Norman) Tennent Dr. A.R. (Arjan) de Koomen

Members of the research group

T.P.C. Beentjes
L. Bicaci
dr. M.A.H. Bol
drs. E.M. Froment
prof.dr. M. Gnade
dr. A.R. de Koomen
dr. K.H. Broekhuijsen - Kruijer
drs. D.O.R. Lugtigheid
K.E. van Lookeren Campagne
H. den Otter
dr. R. Peschar
drs. S. Stigter
prof.dr. N.H. Tennent
S.T.J. van Velzen
prof.dr. J. Wadum
dr. G.J.M. van Wijngaarden
drs. M.J.N. Stols - Witlox

Description of the research programme of the research group

The group consists of researchers working within one of the three closely related disciplines centred on practice-‐ and object-‐based research with a strong technical emphasis in the field of cultural heritage: Conservation & Restoration of Cultural Heritage, Technical Art History, and Conservation Science. Our research emphasis on technical issues and context, aims to complement traditional humanities research by considering hitherto neglected or overlooked facets of objects of cultural heritage that are nonetheless highly relevant to their interpretation and presentation. Each discipline will have its own, unique approach, but at the same time will draw information and expertise from the other disciplines. This synergetic relationship leads us to consider aspects of problems that might not have surfaced within each discipline in isolation. We strive for a shared terminology and interlinking and compatible methodologies. We aim to instigate joint research programmes dealing with common research themes that cut across the divides between the three disciplines.
This theme focuses on the broad context of manufacture and changing states of cultural heritage objects. It addresses the problem of interpretation, management, and possible reversal of change. It investigates how, on the levels of both form and content, the historical use of materials and techniques is intertwined with the history of art.
This research theme deals with the interpretation and conservation of cultural heritage that is bound to a specific context or location. Research considers techniques that can be used to study such objects in situ, and ways in which to conserve them respecting their function or meaning in the fixed context where they are preserved.
This research theme investigates light and colour in a variety of materials. It deals with matters such as (original) pigments and dyes, binding media, varnishes, the loss of colour and sheen, the effect of varying degrees of transparency and opacity, and their consequences for the appearance, conservation and interpretation of objects.
This theme concentrates on the problem of the combination of (layers of) heterogeneous materials and the quality and stability of bonding and adhesion. What causes the bond between materials to deteriorate, and what are effects this deterioration has on the object? Can we find new and better ways of combining materials?
These research themes bring together the fields of Conservation & Restoration, Technical Art History, and Conservation Science in a meaningful and constructive way, resulting in optimal analysis and conservation of objects as repositories of cultural information. The disciplines will challenge and invite the other disciplines to broaden their scope, leading to a sum that is greater than its parts.

Envisaged results

The envisaged results of the research group are traditional academic output (monographs, articles, PhD theses), applications for external funding in national (NWO) and international (EU) programmes centred on the group’s research themes, as well as the formation and consolidation of (inter-‐) national networks for research cooperation. Additionally, special conferences or workshops regarding the general research themes will be organised, if possible in collaboration with relevant national and international partners. This allows colleagues in the field to participate in and contribute to the multi-‐focal research approach.

Work plan and time schedule

The proposed research group does not have a specific end date, since it is expected that it will stimulate lasting research initiatives among the three disciplines. Completion of the PhD-‐projects currently under way is envisaged in the period of 2013-‐2017. The first workshop/conference will probably be scheduled for 2014, and reports, articles and other publications, as well as more general projects, will be published or executed at irregular intervals. The timing for proposals for external funding will depend on the deadlines imposed by national and European funding organisations.

Societal relevance

The research conducted will result in a better understanding of the material aspects of our cultural heritage and the ways in which objects can be preserved and presented. The dissemination of research results to the public and education about conservation and restoration practice is an explicit concern of the group, and a close relationship and (research) collaboration with relevant stakeholders is maintained. In this way, research is relevant not only for the scientific field, but also, or perhaps especially, for a much wider audience of government agencies, conservation and restoration professionals, cultural institutions such as museums, and the lay public at large.