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Protection of bronze monuments in the changing environment


Summary of the project

Copper and bronze undergo spontaneous oxidation in humid air, but the aggressive environment (e.g. acid rain ,..) the outdoor bronze monuments are exposed to, influences their further corrosion and degradation. In spite of the extensive corrosion studies of bronze and artist’s patina, only few direct correlations of environmental conditions, to which a work of art is exposed, to the corrosion development exist. Furthermore, this problem is exacerbated due to the rapid global environmental changes and pollution. In order to protect bronze cultural heritage objects only certain corrosion protection methods may be used, but the protection systems that were in the use till now are not always effective and could be environmentally questionable and need to be adapted to the environmental conditions a work of art is exposed to. Furthermore, the increasing urbanisation, mass tourism, neglect or vandalism of the outdoor-exposed bronze objects, end the everchanging means and ways of communication among people of different generations call also for modern social measures/actions to be developed to provide care for their physical component, and appreciation of cultural heritage monuments in general.

For this project four case studies of bronze monuments are selected in urban (at traffic and non-traffic road), coastal and rural areas of Slovenia. The project will aim to: a) develop the appropriate monitoring system at each location; b) characterise the corrosion products at the selected case studies and eventual artists’ patinations; c) establish the direct correlations of environmental conditions a work of art is exposed to with the corrosion development; d) develop the tailored protection systems; e) develop ICT tools in order to engage the local interested public, tourists, school,… to send photos of damaged parts of selected monuments to a common server; f) image analysis and correlation/comparison with the scientific testing/research described above; g) develop an alert system in order to on time inform the stakeholders of the potential damage recorded by the public; h) special attention will be put to attract the public (e.g. school project, generally motivated citizens/tourists). The project aims to a holistic approach in the care for bronze cultural heritage objects. The progress beyond the state of the art will therefore bring original results in scientific as well as social aspects, such as advanced and effective monitoring system, new databases, correlations of corrosion development in the changing climate, effective and tailored protection systems for outdoor bronze objects, advanced ICT tools, and new social mechanisms in order to include society in the care of cultural heritage.

Relevance of the results expected from research project

Each of these results will impact the development of science. For example, new databases that will be generated within the project will further be useful in different scientific fields, such as Material science, Corrosion science, Conservation science, Heritage science, Analytical Chemistry, Environmental science, ICT science, etc. The new protective systems will greatly influence the development of restoration/conservation and preventive conservation scientific fields, as they will be tailored according to the composition of the objects, including the presence of patinas, as well as to their exposure in the specific polluted environment. The proposed tailored protection systems for outdoor bronze objects against environmental factors in different climatic conditions is not described in neither scientific nor technical literature, what increase the importance and the novelty of the results of the project. The results will be patentable and publishable in scientific high-impact journals. Furthermore, the new guidelines for the use of the developed protection coatings will influence conservation/restoration, conservation science and preventive conservation fields. All these will fundamentally influence the development of the Technical Art History field.