Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science

New ways to examine and characterize organic polymers on metal substrates

The overall aim of this project is to better identify and understand the degradation mechanisms and kinetics of organic polymers on historical and contemporary metal objects. Organic polymers, often paint systems, can be found on metal objects throughout history, from archeological objects to contemporary sculpture. They not only functioned as a way to decorate objects, but also as a coating to protect metals and prevent them from corroding. In many cases, these polymers have degraded more readily than their metal substrates, or have since been damaged, retouched, replaced, or removed entirely. As these organic polymers served an important aesthetic and practical purpose, it is essential they are identified and analyzed in order for an object to be fully understood. Only then an appropriate conservation treatment can be chosen, ensuring no more information is lost. This project aims to study the possibilities of innovative analytical techniques to: identify remnant organic polymers or coatings that have since vanished; better characterize the polymers, their metal substrates and the interface between them; better understand corrosion processes at the interface; develop more appropriate conservation protocols and techniques.

Mol - Rijksmuseum

The Merkel Tablepiece (detail), Wenzel Jamnitzer, 1549. Photo: metal conservation studio, Rijksmuseum.

Project acronym


Principal investigator

  • Dr. ir. J.M.C. Mol (Delft University of Technology)

Co-Principal investigators

  • J. van Bennekom MSc (Rijksmuseum)
  • E.K. van Bork (Rijksmuseum, University of Amsterdam)
  • S. Creange MSc (Rijksmuseum)
  • T. Davidowitz MA (Rijksmuseum, University of Amsterdam)

Participating institutions

  • Delft University of Technology
  • Rijksmuseum
  • University of Amsterdam

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Published by  NICAS

6 April 2017