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Biotech scientists team with curators to stem decay of world's art, cultural heritage

base of Michelangelo's Piet Rondanini and the Cathedrals of Milan and Matera.

Similarly, Sofa Borrego Alonso of the Archivo Nacional de la Repblica de Cuba, says using costly chemical biocides to combat infestations of microorganisms and insects, the principal agents of biodeterioration of cultural documents, not only harms the people that apply them, they accelerate the materials' deterioration.

She will advocate the use of natural, plant-derived products successfully tested in Cuba's National Archives.

Spanish researcher Nieves Valentin Rodrigo of the Instituto de Patrimonio Cultural de Espaa, Madrid, takes the idea a step further, promoting the use of micro-organisms as biosensors to forewarn curators of potential risks to art objects from such threats as pollution and dust levels. She says fungi and bacteria can be harnessed to warn of significant environmental fluctuations and the impact of too many visitors.

According to Dr. Ramirez, curators in many developing countries, regardless of the type of collection they steward, all ask similar questions:

  • How to assess the vulnerability of objects;
  • How to improve storage conditions;
  • How to control exhibition or archive environments, especially in a tropical country with strictly limited means; and
  • How to set preservation and restoration priorities

In addition to biotechnologies, experts will revisit ancient ideas such as the Japanese technique of preserving frail items within multiple boxes. And they will highlight the potential use of Styrofoam packaging to economically protect items from rising heat, humidity and other environmental hazards.

Information to be shared includes how temperature, relative humidity, and dew point risk or benefit collections, the new technologies available to measure and analyze museum environment data, how to manage environments with minimal or no mechanical equipment and non-toxic, non-destr

Contact: Terry Collins
United Nations University

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