Conservation of Cultural Heritage Objects

SUMMER.  Pchem problem set. SUMMER.  Ancient Israel test.  SUMMER.  These are the thoughts that have been running through my head the past few weeks.   Ever since I learned that I had received Charles Center support for summer research I’ve been ready to bring on the infamous Williamsburg heat and humidity and get started.  I have titled this project, “The Interface of Science and the Humanities:  Conservation of Cultural Heritage Objects,” and will be working under the guidance of Professor Wustholz in the Chemistry department.  For the past two semesters we have been collaborating with Shelly Svoboda of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Paintings Conservation Department using Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) as an analytical tool to identify the artist’s materials in various paintings.  The identification of these components is particularly helpful to conservators who can use the information to better preserve national treasures.  In comparison to other scientific techniques, SERS has one significant advantage; it requires mere nanograms of sample to be taken from a painting where as other methods such as High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) require milligrams of sample.  That is a difference of six orders of magnitude! 

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