The right way to preserve art

The right way to preserve art

Preventive conservation

Keep art forever has been founded by the will to bring in collectors’ houses the art preventive conservation.
The “Beni Culturali” Code of 2008 states: “prevention concerns the set of suitable activities aimed to delimit risk circumstances linked to cultural heritage in its own context”. Preventive conservation is the complex of behaviors and technic precautions continuously implemented. These are designed to prevent the onset of damage and to slow down the degradation process by removing the main causes or reducing them to a minimum.



Research and multidisciplinarity

Since some decades ago, the main interest of preventive conservation is in research, so the bibliographic material produced is always updated in order to offer solutions both focused and precise as possible.

Multidisciplinarity is essential for both the comprehension and the control of parameters (temperature, relative humidity, pollution, light radiations etc.) that could influence natural phenomena which interact with artworks.
Keep art forever is both a name and a value proposition, aimed to spread the awareness that art could be and must be kept and maintained within the best possible condition.


System variables

Conservation means to create the most suitable and stable microclimatic conditions around the piece of art. Both the study and data collection about air quality and environment, can differ case by case. That means it is necessary to take in consideration at least the three main elements: the collection itself, indoor conditions and art-enjoyer. Every factor takes part to the addition of variables that contribute to system complexity


The uniqueness of collections

Every collection is made by unique materials: each one lives as better as possible in ideal specific conditions that could be in conflict with the exposition environment. Physical, chemical and biological phenomena interact differently with materials and seasonally affect the microclimate.  


Residential context

Further, it should be considered that artworks’ environment often coincides to people’s house, whom in turn contribute to modify indoor environment. Few people are conscious about the transport of both dust and pollution from outside, and that their presence could add also both thermic energy and water vapor in different ways. On the other hand, art fruition it’s not a limit. Instead, awareness of this problem is the real aim of research towards the right balance of all these variables. Identify the best stasis between artworks and their own context is the essential key for their lifespan lengthening.



The case of the vault of Basilica di Assisi

In History there are countless examples of art modification caused by environment interaction: Basilica Superiore of Assisi vault is one of the most impressive one, because of hues turning from blue to green. This is caused by the pigment used to paint the vault, Azurite, that interacted with high concentration of carbon dioxide associated to relative indoor humidity, converting, thus, the blue pigment to Malachite.



The case of Van Gogh’s paintings

Another example, without watching too far, is represented by some Van Gogh paintings, that exhibited redox reactions of pigments that shifted from chrome yellow to Viridian green. All this is due not only to the natural ageing of artworks that is caused by oxidation and polymerization of materials, but also to processes of acceleration because of atmospheric exchanges with surrounding environment.


Outdoor pollution

Temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide and particulate matter are just some of the parameters that affect collections. Climatic variations can concern not only both human and planet health, but also the cultural heritage. Let’s think about the sulfuric acid present in rain that could damage calcium carbonate artworks exposed to atmosphere because chemical transformation can convert into gypsum, a slightly soluble material susceptible to alterations.


Indoor pollution: sulfur dioxide

But everything outside also enters houses. For example, Sulphur dioxide can damage book that becomes more fragile. It can lead to the pulverization of proteinaceous materials (e.g. wool and silk) and cause corrosion of metals through electrochemical reaction


Indoor pollution: ozone

Another condition of deterioration within the walls, affects collections in offices. Thus, equipment that works with laser technology (e.g. printers and fax machines) generates photochemical effects producing ozone, a highly reactive and corrosive molecule. Fortunately, in the absence of a renewed source, ozone concentrations tend to decay rapidly. In fact, ozone half-life of is 30 minutes. Nevertheless, its own persistence modifies materials affecting gums, tissues, skin and natural pigments.


Indoor pollution: volatile organics compounds

Another problem also to be considered, is the presence of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). It consists of a large family of substances such as alkanes, cycloalkanes, aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons and aldehydes. An important toxicological and mutagenic one is formaldehyde. Indeed, it has been included among suspected human carcinogens by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Deodorants, tarmicides, cleaning products and floor waxes are also sources of VOCs. Therefore, adopting the right attitude towards the products to be used, it’s possible to slow down material degradation.


Why it is important to know the environment

It is fundamental to know that the environment plays a key role in the care of our collections. Its influence is not immediately visible, but it’s possible to control by preventing and slowing down ageing. Proper attention to indoor parameters helps to determine whether the material is in a healthy environment or not.



Right prevention

Collection care should ensure (M.BB.CC. 2001): adequate environmental conditions, constant and effective maintenance of the spaces, specific risk protection measures, regularly and up-to-date checking of conservation standards, prompt interventions for the integrity of works.


Prevention service with Artesicura

With ArtesicurA we offer a specialized remote assistance service. It includes: a preliminary questionnaire about the current condition of the artworks, a videocall consultation for further data acquisition, and a final ad hoc report for the collector


Data collection

Generic questions will be asked in the questionnaire for a preliminary analysis of the collection. The residential area for the acquisition of the city’s pollutants, will be requested. In fact, pollutant values acquired by external environmental monitoring database, allow to estimate their interaction with the works. Key threats such as relative humidity, temperature, and light, will be investigated. For example, persistence of temperature and relative humidity values that are not suitable for the well-being of the works, produces long-term damage.


Il report

Finally, the coexistence of different materials will be estimated in order to propose a suitable and balanced convivial condition. If any critical points are found, these will be reported.
Both the thermo-hygrometric conditions and air quality, outline the well-being conditions of the works of art. Therefore, our goal is to provide adequate awareness of the scientific care of artistic material.