One of the most common deterioration problems affecting cultural heritage worldwide is crystallization damage caused by an interplay between salts, environmental changes and material properties. Especially porous materials are susceptible to salt crystallization. It threatens artworks such as sculptures, ceramics, frescoes, paintings, archeological objects and buildings in museums as well as outdoor environments. Most of these artworks are made of an assembly of layered materials with different physicochemical properties. Additional layers of material are sometimes added as conservation measures. The properties of all materials involved and the interfaces between these materials affect the artwork’s susceptibility to deterioration.
The Crystinart programme (CRYStallization damage at the INTerfaces of ARTworks) is established with this goal in mind on the initiative of Prof. Noushine Shahidzadeh from UvA in order to develop an integrated approach for modelling and analysis of the decay of artworks due to salt crystallization in layered materials. Within this project experimental, theoretical and numerical studies at the micro-scale will be combined to model the interaction between salt crystallization and mechanical response at the interface regions of layered materials. This information will be translated to what happens on the macro-scale, and develop effective predictive and user-friendly tools that describe macroscopic material behaviour for broad range of artefact types. This enables the prediction of damage scenarios for layered materials in artworks. We will develop new conservation strategies based on these predictions, and make them internationally available.
This cooperation between exact scientists and conservation specialists promotes an interdisciplinary research on the topic of crystallization as one of the major causes of degradation of porous objects – and art in particular. The project is financed by the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage and Global Change (JPICH), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Netherlands Institute for Conservation Art and Science (NICAS).