While analytical tools to evaluate the chemical state of artworks are increasingly available to the conservator, non-invasive methods to assess their mechanical state are absent. Monitoring mechanical damage (cracking, delamination) and following and evaluating conservation treatments (solvents, consolidants) is key for preservation of collections. Through pilot studies we have established Laser Speckle Imaging (LSI) as a promising tool to resolve this.
LSI is an ultra-sensitive motion-detection system that can resolve how and when solvents induce mechanical motions in paintings during restoration; it can reveal crack activation in metal artefacts and illuminate how solvent treatments induce delamination in diseased glassware. LSI provides non-invasive, sensitive and rapid insights to guide conservators to design minimally-destructive treatments and enables real-time monitoring of mechanical damage during treatment. Realizing this promise requires re-design of the prototype instrument, development of user-friendly software and a workflow to tailor it for conservation practice.
In this project, experts in LSI and conservation science join forces to bring LSI into the arsenal of conservation science and practice. It will be immediately incorporated in the ongoing efforts to monitor the mechanical stability of paintings during cleaning, the stability of stress-corrosion cracks in metal artefacts and in finding solutions to mitigate glass illness.