Ongoing projects

Belgian Carriage Interior Research Project. The scientific analyses of historical materials and techniques and historical interiors of Hippomobile heritage in de collection of KMKG-MRAH (BELCAIRE). 31/12/2021 - 31/12/2031

Abstract

The KMKG-MRAH holds an exceptional collection of about eighty carriages and sledges dating from the late 17th century until the early 20th century, including 11 coaches on loan from the Belgian Royal House. Although these objects accurately reflect the historical innovations in technology and material science of their era, hippomobile heritage remains an understudied field in heritage science. In recent years, a preliminary damage assessment of the KMKG-MRAH collection highlighted the exceptional original state of the objects, but in parallel raised concern for the poor material condition, especially of the interiors that include upholstery, shades, cushions, passementary and trimmings. As a result of the poor condition of some of these interiors, conservation students and staff of UAntwerp conducted a preliminary collection audit in 2019. This survey highlighted the complexity of preserving these mixed-material interiors, bringing instable inorganic materials (e.g., corroding metal) in close contact with sensitive organic materials such as (oiled) textile fibres, leather and early synthetic materials. As such, the goal of BELCAIRE is to develop a model for long-term preservation strategy not only targeting the KMKG-MRAH collection but applicable to all hippomobile heritage dispersed over various European museums, institutions and private collections. We therefore propose first gaining insight into the largely unknown innovative materials and craftmanship employed for the manufacture of carriages by combining the study of historical sources (patents and manuals) with a careful optical inspection and chemo-physical characterization of a selection of carriages. In the first phase/two years, BELCAIRE focuses on four case studies which are representative for various social classes: royalty (case 1: inv. nr. TR 49), nobility (case 2: inv. nr. TR 76), bourgeoisie (case 3: inv. nr. TR 4) and public transport (case 4: inv. nr. TR 69). In later years enlarging this corpus will allow finetuning and benchmarking the obtained insights. After this material study ongoing degradation phenomena are identified and listed whereas their mechanisms and urgency are further assessed through the production and artificial ageing of mock-ups. In particular, historical materials are reproduced according to recipes and exposed to various environmental conditions to quantify their individual and combined impact on the degradation mechanisms. Based on the obtained insights, a generic risk assessment model is drawn up for hippomobile heritage, guiding curators and conservators in their decision-making processes for active and passive conservation. Finally, an elaborate dissemination plan, linking with the HOME-AGE project (FED-tWIN project PRF-2020-011 granted in the previous round), targets an efficient flow to and interaction with scholars, students and the general public. In this way, BELCAIRE aims to close the knowledge gap on the conservation and preservation of hippomobile heritage and contributes to the understanding of cumulative damage caused by mixed materials and techniques in carriage interiors in particular.

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Selling the 'City of Art'. Urban tourism and the advent of city marketing in Belgium (1880-1980). 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

"Selling the City of Art" places the genesis of urban tourism marketing and branding strategies in a long-term perspective for Belgium between c.1880 and c.1980. It does so by focusing first and foremost on the 'orgware', i.e. stakeholders, organisations and institutions involved in city branding, by questioning and explaining historically changing motivations and rationales behind tourist promotion using growth coalition theory. Secondly, the project analyses how these different urban power groups actually sought out various media ('software') to create a specific brand for the Belgian 'Cities of art'. Finally, it considers how the heritage infrastructure of cities ('hardware') was gradually adopted to accommodate for urban tourism and mediate a specific urban tourist brand. The current project innovates in its trailblazing use and combination of underacknowledged historical sources of both a visual and textual kind, and by applying a new in-depth DH-approach for qualitative and quantitative analysis. Hitherto a neglected field in international research, the study of Belgium from a specific long-term historical perspective will break new ground in the interdisciplinary field of Tourism Studies and open up new discussions relevant for Heritage Studies and the field of Urban Studies more in general.

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Lead white speciation: a technical marker for dating paintings and paint layers. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

Recent developments in chemical imaging can force a breakthrough in one of the long-standing, key challenges for painting conservation: the treatment of hybrid artworks, presenting heritage professionals with a puzzling amalgam of original materials and non-original layers, accumulated during various interventions. In particular, the recent introduction of Macro X-Ray Powder Diffraction imaging (MA-XRPD) in the heritage field now allows to differentiate sub-types of pigments with unprecedented chemical specificity, without the need for sampling or moving the artwork. The aptitude to identify and quantify crystal phases in artists' materials allows for the first time to reliably discriminate pigments employed by Old Masters from their industrial-age equivalents, used by the (hyper-)restorers and forgers of the 19th-20th-C. Within the artist's palette, lead white holds the highest potential to serve as a marker for signaling 'pigment anachronism' due to its omnipresence, occurring in almost all pre-WWII paint layers. In addition, preliminary MA-XRPD experiments on historical paintings indicated a clear variation in the mass ratio of the constituting compounds of lead-white: cerussite (PbCO3), hydrocerussite (2PbCO2.Pb(OH)2) and plumbonacrite (PbO.3PbCO3.Pb(OH)2). These variations were tentatively linked to the gradual improvement of production methods over time. Although the drastic switch to large-scale industrial processes at the end of the 18th-C is expected to have a fundamental impact on the chemical composition of lead white, the production processes and crystallographic composition of industrial-age lead white were never studied. As a result, the proposed discrimination of original brushwork from younger paint strokes, based on the determination of the relative crystal phase composition of lead white, is currently prevented by the lack of reliable information on industrial-age lead white compositions (1750-1940). In the context of lead white, the discovery and production of CO2 in 1750 is considered as starting date for the industrial age, whereas WWII marked the gradual replacement of lead white by titanium white. Therefore, we propose defining the chemical signature of (modern) lead white by analyzing pigment powders, accurately reproduced in a chemical lab environment according to the production processes described in historical textual sources. In this way, the chemical fingerprint of the reproduced sub-types of lead white will serve as a ground truth for the anticipated variation in historical paintings. In the next step, the representativity of this fingerprint is benchmarked by analyzing a relevant group of late 18th to early 20th-C paintings in museum collections. Next, the ability of MA-XRPD to chemically contrast industrial-age lead white from traditional lead white on actual, complex paintings will be assessed by in situ experiments on well-studied 'hyper-restorations'. Examples of the latter are 15th-C paintings with well-documented areas of excessive overpaint. In a final step, the added value of this research will be valorized during the third and last phase of the conservation treatment of Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, which confronts conservators with a particularly convoluted, hybrid and heterogenous paint system.

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Compatibility of urban green infrastructure and built heritage environments. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

Nature-based solutions in urban environments can help achieving Sustainable Development Goals and those put forward by the European Green Deal. This project scopes the synergy between green infrastructure and the conservation of our built heritage. Using a value-based approach, we investigate how green infrastructure can comply with the quality principles of built heritage conservation, within the limits of technical possibilities. The aim is to provide a decision-making framework to help heritage actors implementing green infrastructure as adaptation and mitigation strategies in heritage environments, making sure that heritage at the core of the urban fabric is playing its active role in the mitigation of environmental challenges.

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Historical Materials and Techniques of the South Netherlandish Home in the MRAH-KMKG collections (HOME-AGE). 01/09/2021 - 31/08/2031

Abstract

The collection of the KMKG-MRAH holds a vast number of objects from across the globe, dating from prehistory to the 20th century. Nevertheless, from its early conceptualization in 1885, the museum's focus is to collect, preserve, study, and share the richness of applied arts from the South Netherlandish region. This focus led to a large and hybrid collection with a main body of 17th and 18th century objects tied to the history and roots of this territory. However, aside from the publication of a number of exhibition catalogues on sub-collections in the 1970's, little scientific research has been done to date. Traditionally, these few catalogues primarily focus on the art historical context of the exhibited items; leaving other scientific disciplines as well as the large number of depot-items untouched. In recent years, several pilot studies and a previous BELSPO research project in collaboration with the UAntwerp showed that the depot contains high-level objects and object-groups which are awaiting discovery and scientific study. The proposed HOME-AGE project (pronounced 'homage') aims to close the knowledge gap on this key collection; and in general, that of the applied arts from the South Netherlandish home between the contra-reformation and the Age of Enlightenment. The FED-tWIN research profile will complete and open-up the collection's context through the study of the collection's archives, the compilation of an exhaustive historiography on South Netherlandish applied arts and an in-depth material technical study of the objects. The above will generate new knowledge and research topics within the domain. The project is divided into several work packages (WP's). In WP 1 a historical and technical state-of-the-art is obtained through literature and archival research. The project foresees a synergetic collaboration with the ongoing 2019 FED-tWIN RMARCH project focusing on the FSI's archival research. Next, a corpus of objects is selected through an audit and classification (WP2). This corpus is studied on a material technical level (WP3). The acquired knowledge and new insights from the previous WP's are then contextualized and centralized in the online HOME-AGE network platform (WP4). Throughout the project, the acquired knowledge and experiences will be disseminated towards a broad audience and heritage education (WP5). The outcome is fivefold. First, the audit, historiography, and the archival study complete the information back-log of the FSI's collection. In addition, insights into the materiality and the history of conservation will allow adequate actions to be taken to safeguard the collection for future generations. Second, the transdisciplinary scientific study will generate new knowledge about the relations between the material technical history and art-history of applied arts in this culturally diverse region. Third, the synergy between the FSI and the UAntwerp will challenge, inspire, and feed the educational programmes of both partners. Fourth: the online HOME-AGE open-access platform will foster general interest and instigate, promote, and assist scholarly research of South Netherlandish applied arts and European art technical history. Fifth: This FED-tWIN aims to consolidate and stimulate the ongoing FSI/UAntwerp partnership towards the future, enhancing scientific expertise, promoting science and heritage education.

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Towards tailored design and 3D printing of geopolymers as a novel application for conservation of stone-built heritage. 01/07/2021 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

This research proposes a new development in the restoration sector is presented. This development consists of the application of 3D printed geopolymers in stone-built heritage. Stone-built heritage plays a significant role in the past as well as in today's society. Numerous structures, sculptures and other decorations are made in stone, ranging from purely functional structures to structures of significant historical and cultural value. Stone has quantitative properties, such as durability, which is why it is associated with longevity. However, the stone is not an inert material. It undergoes changes in appearance and functional capacity that can be understood as surface processes that lead to degradation, ultimately with an overall loss of value (damage). Currently, the conventional restoration method is the use of repair mortars. Repair mortars are an efficient way of preservation, aiming at maximum preservation of the original material. However, they also have many drawbacks, the main one being the lack of compatibility with the original material. It will eventually cause damage to the substrate. It is a very well-founded reason to look beyond the known and established products and methods from the restoration sector and conduct multidisciplinary research. By combining engineering and materials science with restoration sciences, we can develop new methods. A new method that can result from this is the application of 3D printed geopolymers. Geopolymers are stone-like materials which are placed between binders, such as cement and ceramics. The properties can be strongly influenced. Different types of geopolymers exist, depending on the system through which they are activated. In this study, we would like to focus on alkali-activated geopolymers because they can be manufactured from waste materials. In this way, this is a circular material, and therefore CO2 production is significantly reduced. An additional advantage of using alkali-activated geopolymers is that the equipment to print this type of geopolymer already exists (but we do not rule out the possible use of other types of geopolymers in the future). By conducting this research, a new and innovative working method can be developed for the restoration industry. It will improve the restoration process so that our stone heritage can be well preserved for later generations, despite the degradation processes of stone. At the same time, this research also yields a sustainable method, which will be crucial for later generations to continue to admire the heritage.

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L'Ancienne Belgique. Museums, archaeology, and the creation of national identity in Belgium (1870-1940). 01/07/2021 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Up until recently, the history of archaeology as a scientific discipline was seriously biased, as experts predominantly focused on the more spectacular excavations abroad - in Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, or Egypt - while the rise of "backyard" archaeology in one's own country was largely ignored. Drawing on the rich - yet barely scrutinized - archives of the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, the current project aims to analyze how the most important collection for national archaeology in Belgium took shape in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Tying in with some major debates in the field, we will scrutinize slow but sure processes of institutionalization, professionalization, and ideologization, by identifying the actors and institutions involved in "backyard archaeology", the techniques that were developed, and the link with nationalism and imperialism.

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Characterising the impact of urban green initiatives on cultural heritage environments. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Cities are increasingly implementing 'green' initiatives to improve the environment for the health and wellbeing of residents. Common initiatives in Flanders include more space for pedestrians, low emission zones, expanding green spaces and density of plants, and the reintroduction of water. These initiatives are often undertaken in historic city centres, in which heritage buildings are abundant: these heritage buildings are crucial to establishing the character of places and supporting mental wellbeing. These buildings are often built from traditional materials such as local stone, brick, and mortar. Over time, these materials are affected by the local environment and can deteriorate. The factors that control this deterioration are the same as those which are most commonly modified by introducing green initiatives in urban areas. This project investigates how the 'greening' of our cities may have long-term implications for the durability of heritage buildings. Of particular interest is how these initiatives change the environment at a local scale near the surfaces of heritage buildings. By using laboratory studies and examining heritage buildings in proximity to current 'greening' initiatives, this project will not only study the current impacts on heritage buildings and their materials, but also look forward to the implications for our heritage and cities toward the end of the 21st century.

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Understanding the technological and economical history of enigmatic green copper sulfate pigments in Flemish Renaissance art. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

The beginning of the 16th century marked the start of a prosperous time for Flanders with the flourishing of culture, trade and science directly reflected into the works of art of the Antwerp School. However, the year 1500 does not only mark a period of stylistic revolution, the works of art also change from a technological point of view with Flemish painters experimenting with innovative materials and techniques, an aspect that has remained understudied hitherto. In this framework, recent analytical studies signaled the use of copper sulfates, an unknown green pigment type, that seems to witness the artist's pursuit to expand the limited range of pigments and enhance the realistic representation of nature. The aim of this research is to understand (a) the use (prevalence, technique, relation to other green pigments), (b) the provenance (where was it produced), the production method (historical technology) and (c) the trade (how and why did it come to Flanders) of these new materials. This will be done by combining the study of textual historical sources and the physical reproduction of the technology with a chemical screening of paintings and illuminated manuscripts. In this way, we propose exploiting the new vistas created by the recent introduction of chemical imaging techniques to enhance our understanding of the interplay of science, technology and trade with the bloom of Flemish Renaissance art and its stylistic innovations.

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Controversial Heritage. Development of a frame of reference for dealing with sensitive heritage in cultural heritage institutions (REGER frame) 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

The goal of the project is (1) the development of a Frame of Reference for dealing with Sensitive Heritage (REGER-Frame) that is (2) concretely implemented in the public display and outreach programmes of heritage institutions, and, (3) to give an incentive for a structural sustainable inclusion of the REGER-frame in heritage and education networks. The impact of and the potential of the reactions against the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-2021 on the three subgoals of the second phase of the broader project are explicitly addressed.

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Unraveling the origins, technical history and sciences behind the colouring of textiles, Conste des ververs, 1619-1623. 01/07/2020 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

This research will focus on Conste des Ververs a unique and rather unknown Flemish dyers manuscript kept in the archives of Leuven. Dated 1619-1623 and written by Henricus Coghen a dyer who lived and worked in Leuven. Wool silk, linen and feathers were the materials to be dyed. Human and natural sciences will be involved unravelling the research on the origin of the dyeing techniques used in early seventeenth century in Brabant, Leuven. In order to better understand the used techniques, ingredients and materiality. The manuscript will be transcribed and the historical recipes will be reconstructed. This project focusses on the origins and dyeing techniques used in the manuscript. Relations between the manuscript Conste des Ververs and an existing recipe corpus from fifteenth to seventeenth European recipes books will be explored. This will enable to shed a light on the circulation of knowledge in the written and printed historical recipes during the seventeenth century. Although a substantial part of this research will focus on the historical making processes and the partly forgotten source materials and techniques that were known by craftsman. This will be done by 're-working' the transcribed recipes from the manuscript Conste des Ververs. This research wants to generate and address salient research questions that would not have been raised by text-based analysis alone. The purpose of this study is to understand the process of making, and the partly forgotten source materials and techniques, by unravelling historical recipes and reconstruct them in order to understand technique and materiality. In addition this method of working develops a new methodology and procedure to study historical coloured textile materials.

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Controversial heritage. Development and implementation of a reference framework for dealing with sensitive heritage in cultural heritage institutions (REFSHER framework). 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

With discussions about wrong street names, controversial statues or loaded colonial objects, sensitive heritage has a high topical value. It is not easy to handle this for cultural heritage institutions. The aim of the project is (1) to develop a REference Framework for dealing with Sensitive HERitage (REFSHER framework) that (2) can be applied in the collection presentation and public activities of heritage institutions so that their effects can be measured. Sensitive heritage can be a powerful means of facilitating multiperspectivity. Multiperspectivity is an attitude that expresses the willingness to change perspective mentally. It is about the willingness to put oneself in perspective of others, both in old perspectives and in contemporary interpretations. It is also important to include the perspective of socially vulnerable groups or groups that are less socially involved. Multiperspectivity presupposes bringing together and connecting people with openness to each other's argued perspectives. In this way, multiperspectivity contributes to the development of a critical sense, respect for others and a democratic attitude. Sensitivity is time and space bound and not static and unchangeable. Watson (2016) speaks in this context of "the emotional register of the past". Heritage institutions do try to respond to the sensitivities that exist in society by creating authenticity, experience and tension, but are also wary of hyper-emotional reactions. We mainly work with publicly accepted emotions about suffering, violence and fear. However, that emotional register is not certain. The fierce discussions about controversial statues, wrong street names or the Zwarte Piet policy show that sensitivity is time and space bound. "Sensitivity" is a label that is stuck on heritage, but can fade over time to come back later. The question therefore arises as to which factors determine that something is perceived as sensitive and to what extent this is then associated with heritage. The central research question is: What are the possibilities and limitations to realize multiperspectivity through sensitive heritage in cultural heritage institutions? As partners in the cultural heritage field, we chose institutions that (1) have sensitive heritage in their collections and (2) offer opportunities to respond to important contemporary social issues. The following partners were found willing to actively participate: - ADVN | archive for national movements, specifically the Flemish movement, other national and regional movements in Europe and related themes or derived from them, such as right-wing radicalism, fascism, racism, negationism, based in Antwerp; - Kazerne Dossin - Memorial, Museum and Documentation Center on Holocaust and Human Rights, in Mechelen; - Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent on the history of and current discussions on psychiatry and mental health, care, and art and madness; - AfricaMuseum in Tervuren, place of memory of a shared colonial past and a platform for meeting and dialogue with people of different generations and cultures.

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Research and conservation treatments on eight objects. 23/09/2019 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

From the metal collections in the KMKG, a number of objects were selected to be researched and treated. It concerns liturgical and domestical objects made in copper- and silver alloys. Historical and material-technical research is conducted before a conservation treatment proposal is designed. When approved, the conservation treatments are carried out.

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Historical and typological evolution of window glazing. An integrated view upon a forgotten building material. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

This integrated research concerns the evolution in window glazing in architecture in the Low Countries, from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Within the framework of the study of 'material culture' the historical and typological evolution will be conducted by studying historical texts, images, still existing windows and chemical analyses of well-dated historical glass. Concerning our region, this research on the building material 'glass' is the first of this kind and size.

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Past projects

Exhibition DRESS.CODE 01/09/2020 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

A missing jacket button, a brightly coloured fitted dress, a hidden pocket in a waistcoat, a dress with full leg-of-mutton sleeves, and a custom wool suit: what stories do these garments tell? The dresses, hats, jewellery, and shoes at the Fashion Museum Hasselt were carefully chosen, worn, and cherished by their owners and are intimately linked to memories, emotions, and adventures. They form a tangible testament to individual histories and lives lived. For DRESS.CODE., the Fashion Museum Hasselt delved deep into its extensive archives in search of these hidden narratives.

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Treatment of pre-Columbian objects. 07/11/2019 - 01/10/2020

Abstract

Research and treatment of three pre-columbian artifacts from the collection of the city of Antwerp. Due to the application of paint layers of the ceramic body the removal of old restorations provides an additional challenge. The research is focussed on the stabilization of the paint layers and furthermore consists of a historic and material study of the objects. The treatment consists of the following; removal of previous restorations, stabilization of cracks/chips/fragile parts, bonding of the cracks, applying structural fillings, a non-integrated paint job.

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Conservation and research of two banners 01/10/2019 - 30/06/2021

Abstract

Conservation and research of two nineteenth century banners. This project focusses on the preservation and future deterioration and damage of two flags from the Sint-Joris guild. Both flags are made of silk and are extremely fragile therefore they require a conservation treatment.

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Conservation and restauration of a Mary statue with Child. 01/09/2019 - 30/06/2020

Abstract

Conservation and restoration of a Madonna statue with Child in terracotta. The questions that were asked here were, among other things: do Madonna and Child belong together, is the assumption that this sculpture with separate Child is attributed to Walter Pompe, what about the thick package of finishing layers, what are the problems and what is the condition of the terracotta, and how should this sculpture be preserved in the future?

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  • Promotor: van der Star Carolina

Research team(s)

Conservation treatment of Spanish lustreware and Chinese porcelain bowls. 22/04/2019 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

Students of the department ceramics conservation researched and restored a decorative lustreware bowl as well as three bowls in Chinese porcelain. The main issue with these objects was the amount of old restorations including; schellak based bondings, deteriorated fillings, and paint layers on original pieces. Before treatment the objects were studied and the methods of conservation were determined. The treatment consisted of; removing all former previous restorations, bonding off the fragment, filling of the gaps, and painting of these fillings. The objects were restored with stable and reversible materials.

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Preliminary investigation textile collection in the Castle from Gaasbeek 03/04/2019 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Work: Preliminary discipline textile Domeain: Castle Gaasbeek Adress: Kasteelstraat 40 1750 Gaasbeek, building number: P23010 Number: 2019/HFB/OBW/ B00234 Material and technical research of valuable textiles textiles. Conservation advise for tapestries, chimney textiles, curtain caps and wall coverings in the castle of Gaasbeek. This preliminary research consist in a material description and advice for conservation. Following textiles were studied, 12 tapestries, 3 Chimney textiles, 6 curtain caps and 3 wall coverings.

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Selection of stained-glass fragments from c. 36 cases with archaeological glass pieces. 24/01/2019 - 23/05/2019

Abstract

A large amount of glass fragments has been found a few years ago in Roermond, The Netherlands. These glass fragments contain stained-glass pieces from the 14th century until 1665 (second important fire of the city). The selection of the fragments is important as it leads to reassembling entities with matching pieces? A preliminary selection has led to a remarkable amount of items. These are obviously from civic origin.

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Conservation of two banners 01/01/2019 - 30/06/2020

Abstract

Conservation and material research two 19th century banners. One banner is painted. In the first place a material and historical research will be caried out by the students. The identification and the morphology of the silk fibres will be investigated with the optical microscope. The silk and the painted parts in the second banner will be cleaned and fragile parts will be supported. A tube will be provided to store the unpainted banner. The painted banner will be stored on an acid free cardboard.

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Slovak Soil in Flemish Art: Tracing trade and technology of two leading regions in the Renaissance 21/12/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

The beginning of the 16th century marked the start of a prosperous time for Flanders with Antwerp becoming one of Europe's leading commercial and financial centres. The flourishing of culture, trade and science was directly reflected into the works of the Antwerp School, a class of highly skilled painters that initially combined the Flemish Gothic tradition with Renaissance elements. However, the year 1500 does not only mark a period of stylistic revolution, the works of art also change from a technological point of view, with Flemish painters experimenting with innovative materials and techniques, an aspect that has remained understudied. In particular, we will chemically analyse a relevant corpus of Renaissance paintings, which can be considered as tangible artefacts of technological history, in order to chemically trace a series of highly unusual copper pigments, recently reported in a few works of art. It is currently assumed that these innovative pigments were imported to Antwerp from a mining area in the current Slovak Republic through trade with the Thurzo-Fugger company. Since Jakob Fugger was the wealthiest and most influential man in the Renaissance, holding a quasi-monopoly on European copper trade, this hypothesis seems viable. Nevertheless historical research is needed to substantiate this theory. In this project, we propose employing the state-of-the-art, chemical imaging instrumentation that was recently developed by the University of Antwerp (Department of Chemistry, AXES group) to reveal the use of these 'experimental' copper materials that give evidence of the vanguard spirit of Antwerp Renaissance painters. The AXES group is a pioneer in chemical imaging on works of art, as illustrated by the development of a mobile MA-XRF scanner that allows non-invasive and in situ chemical analysis directly on to the paintings, in a museum gallery. In this way extraction of a sample or transport of fragile works of art to a laboratory is no longer necessary. Moreover, the fact that complex chemical information is translated into a set of straightforward images that can be easily interpreted by all stakeholders in the heritage field (and the general public) makes this scanner a true catalyst for multi-disciplinary research. Notable example of this added value was the vital contribution of MA-XRF scanning to the ongoing conservation treatment of Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece. Earlier this year (2018), the group introduced a MA-XRPD scanner during a high-profile, international research campaign of Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring. This innovative instrument works in a similar way as the previous MA-XRF scanner, but goes yet another step further in the chemical characterisation of paint materials. For the first time, it is possible to visualize in situ, ongoing degradation processes (causing e.g. discoloration) and to differentiate various types of crystal structures inside pigments. It is this latter property that we propose exploiting in order to trace the aforementioned copper sulphates. In summary: thanks to new instrumentation, it is possible, for the first time, to distinguish these unusual pigments from traditional copper pigments. We want to consolidate our technical head start by being the first to document these innovative materials that were first used by Flemish artists. The goal of this project is tracing back the original mines, chemically characterise its ores and reproduce the pigments. Next, we link the produced chemical fingerprint of these copper ores to the materials found inside historical paintings, both of local Slovak and Antwerp production. Finally, we investigate Antwerp's historical trade route with Central Europe, and the role of the Fugger company by means of historical research. By reconstructing and evidencing this historical know-how, we anticipate illustrating Antwerp and Flanders' central role in European trade, art production and technology, both in the past and today.

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Conservation and restoration treatment of a tile panel depicting Christ. 08/11/2018 - 01/09/2019

Abstract

This project concerns the treatment of a twelve-part tile panel depicting Christ on the cross (property of STAM, Ghent). The object was in bad condition due to the large number of obsolete restorations, fractures, and missing tiles. In addition to a historical and technical study, the object received treatment to increase its exhibition value. All forms of previous restorations were removed, cracks and fractures stabilized, and gaps were filled and retouched. Photographic processes were used for reconstruction of the missing tiles.

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Research and treatment of five objects. 22/10/2018 - 31/10/2019

Abstract

The research and subsequent treatment concerns five archaeological objects from the Far-east collection of the Royal Museum for Art and History. Each object will be studied in all of its aspects and values. From these observations, a treatment proposal will be discussed with the responsible museum staff members.

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When Art Turned DayGlo, Marking the Impact of Daylight Fluorescent Materials in New York Art from the 60s and 70s. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

This research focusses on art containing daylight fluorescent colors, created in New York during the 60's and 70's. This topic has practically been completely neglected in the art historical literature, leaving the impact which fluorescence had on the history of art and art criticism, undetermined. My earlier historical and material-technical analyses of the use of fluorescent colors by Herb Aach and Frank Stella will be the starting point. These will be expanded and further elaborated. I will then consider New York artists who were active in the same period, such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Fred Sandback and Keith Sonnier. In order to discuss the selection of works, a new language must be developed that allows adequate description of the experience and the effects caused by fluorescent colors. This language will be developed through the means of archival research, analysis of art historical literature, material-technical enquiry and henomenological investigation. At this stage, a provisory taxonomy of fluorescent phenomena in art will be at hand, which will be expanded and revised through experiments in perceptual psychology and subsequently integrated in the new language. This will enable a correct assessment of the of the considered works. On the basis of this, the place and the role of fluorescence in the oeuvre of the artists will be considered, along with a reevaluation of the art criticism of the 60's and 70's.

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Diva dry plates Sturbelle 30/09/2018 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

The museum DIVA possesses 114 dry plates created by jewelry house Sturbelle in Brussels. These plates will receive a conservation treatment at the Studio Visual Media. A research study will be conducted into the jewelry house Sturbelle, and the photographers employed by the company for these dry plates.

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Conservation research and conservation-restoration of three 19th-century stained-glass panels in the side buildings of the Holy Family Church at Borgerhout (Antwerp). 24/09/2018 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

This project concerns the study and the conservation of three monumental stained-glass panels dated in the late 19th century. These stained-glass panels are situated in a side-building of the Church of the Holy Family in Borgerhout (Antwerp). Beside research in function of the conservation-restoration, the practical conservation of the panels is part of the project. Related to this project outer glazing will be installed to protect the stained glass.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research and treatment of two porcelain ornamental vases and a Guan-Yu on horse. 01/03/2018 - 01/09/2018

Abstract

This research focusses on the treatment of two ornamental vases in porcelain and a small figurine of the collection of the museum STAM, Gent. The treatment is carried out by the students of the third bachelor degree's of the studio ceramics conservation. In addition to researching the meaning and origin of these pieces, all old forms of restoration will be removed. Individual shards will be bonded to form one piece again, gaps will be filled in and will be painted to match the surrounding material.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation of a banner from Sint-Sebastian 01/01/2018 - 30/06/2019

Abstract

Conservation and material research of a 19th century silk flag from Retie. In the first place a material and historical research will be caried out by the students. The identification and the morphology of the silk fibres will be investigated with the optical microscope. The silk will be cleaned and fragile parts will be supported. A tube will be provided to store the object.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Reproduction of early 17th century majolica tiles 23/11/2017 - 01/09/2018

Abstract

Students of the first bachelor degree, department conservation and restoration, reproduced several majolica tiles at the request of the Museum Rockox. These reproductions were based on early 17th century designs focussing on the theme 'plants and animals' and were produced according to the original technique of 'in-glazzing'. In addition, the students extensively studied the original techniques and designs.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation and restoration treatment of two tile panels from the collection of Gilliot. 23/11/2017 - 01/09/2018

Abstract

This project, and the subsequent conservation and restoration treatment, concerns two art deco tile panels (from the collection of the Gilliot & Roelants museum). Both panels were in a disassembled and severely damaged condition. The treatment aims to increase the exhibition value and to stabilize the objects in the future. The smaller panel, consisting of only four tiles, shows a ship and is executed in the cloissoné technique. The other panel, with a total of 44 tiles, belonged to a former butcher's shop and is executed in the 'Guerda seca' or 'dry line' technique. An additional problem is the absence of a large number of tiles, which were lost during disassembly from its original storage place. Both panels were completely restored and reassembled with the repurposing in the museum collection in mind.

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Research team(s)

Research on a silver cleaning protocol for enhancing the preservation of the silver collection and the conservation-restoration of a 'Emile Anthony and Wolfers frères' cutlery set. 06/11/2017 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Silver objects in the DIVA collection show variated grades of tarnishing. The research topic is to investigate to what extend the cleaning methods influence the degradation phenomena. A second part of the project involves the conservation-restoration of a gilded silver cutlery set.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research and treatment of copper engraving plaquettes from the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. 31/10/2017 - 31/10/2019

Abstract

The research and treatment of copper engravings from the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus, started because a large number of items has suffered from a former applied varnish layer and years of storage, which have led to an unwanted conservation state. This project is in close cooperation with the staff of the museum. Not only will there be tests executed and strategies explored, conclusions and practical applicability of the processes will be assessed together. The goal of the research is to define a cleaning- and treatment protocol for the copper engravings.All unwanted layers and substances have to be removed from their surfaces. Subsequently, an appropriate method of treating the surface has to be established to enable a proper preservation, but also the possibility for researchers and public to view the items when needed. Finally, the established protocol will be used on a part of the collection to asses its quality. A prototype of packaging will be introduced. The final protocol will enable the museum to take care of the complete collection of copper engravings and to make a new packaging and storage system for safe keeping and easy access.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Analytical research on the lead printing letters in the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. 31/10/2017 - 31/10/2019

Abstract

The analytical research on the lead printing letters will be performed by using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). This technique enables a quick and non-invasive survay to determine the alloy compositions of the letters. Earlier research has shown that letters consisting of only lead and antimony are extremely sensitive to corrosion development. When tin is also present in the alloy, the danger of corroding is much less. To be able to distinguish the endangered alloys from the safer ones, these measurements are needed. The exhibited letters in the museum will be measured, but also the closed trays and paper packages will be monitored. XRF has the advantage to be able to measure through the paper and makes it unnecessary to open them. Iin close cooperation with the museum staff, descisions will be made for the endangered alloys to store them in appropriate and stable conditions. The XRF measurements will be executed exclusively by the promotor.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research for a conservation treatment methodology for corroded lead printing letters. 31/10/2017 - 31/10/2018

Abstract

Earlier research has shown that historical printing letters that consist only of lead and antimony, are extremely sensitive for developing corrosion. A small part of the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus is severely corroded and is in fact considered lost. Another part however is not totally corroded and has the possibility to be conserved by means of chemical or electrochemical stabilisation. The present research is designed to find the most appropriate technique and products tot do so. The developed protocol is meant to be used for the conservation of the collection of printing letters and enabling a safe preservation for the future.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Study, proof-conservation and crowd-funding design concerning an Art Nouveau stained-glass light, originally from Hotel Cousin, Brussels, designed by Victor Horta. 16/10/2017 - 30/10/2018

Abstract

This project concerns the study and a proof-conservation of a monumental 'light' designed by Victor Horta around 1900. This monumental stained-glass light belongs to the collection of the Royal Museums of Art and History at Brussels. Beside this preliminary research we will also work on a crowd-funding campaign by means of a special designed display.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research and conservation treatments on cemetery objects from the burial places at Rosmeer and Grote Spouwen. 30/09/2017 - 03/09/2018

Abstract

Research and conservation treatments of cemetery objects from the burial places at Rosmeer and Grote Spouwen. The objects consists of metals, glass and other materials. Decision on the level of treatment and the required final aspect will be taken together with the responsible persons.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation treatment of a nineteenth century banner from the Sint-Michiels church in Antwerp 15/09/2017 - 12/07/2018

Abstract

Conservation of nineteenth century banner of the Sint Michiel church in Antwerp. The conservation treatment consist in the cleaning of the metal threats and the consolidation of the deteriorated silk medaillons.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Air quality analyses in the church of Aalst. 01/07/2017 - 31/08/2018

Abstract

Recently, a Climatization System has been installed in the church of Aalst, which will be used in December 2017. This adjustment can have a major impact on the church interior. In order to correctly evaluate this impact, measurements are needed. The University of Antwerp has developed a device to monitor multiple environmental parameters (eg, temperature, relative humidity, fine dust, concentrations of pollutants) at the same time. In addition, the shrinkage and swelling behavior of wood and the corrosion rate of metals can also be followed as well. The University of Antwerp can summarize all these data into 1 air quality index, which makes it easy to understand the evolution of air quality. By comparing a period before and after the startup of the new climatisation system, we will get a good picture of its impact.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Schalm Olivier

Research team(s)

Dossin Kazerne Mechelen; museum support project (calamity and facilities report, conservation treatment of two painting of Irene Awret. Followed by the assessment of the Rozenberg/Hofstätter collection. 01/04/2017 - 31/01/2019

Abstract

The Dossinkazerne has a very diverse collection of artworks. Many objects are supportive to the story of the deportation, however some works of art have been created in the period of Dossin as 'Sammellager'. Fitting example are the oil paintings by Irene Awret (1921-2014). These works are direct witnesses of the operation and atmosphere within the barracks. In addition to the works of Awret, there is also a need for a calamity and facilities plan for the entire collection. Hofstätter's works are examined in more detail.

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Research team(s)

Reheating of dalle de verre glass building blocks: against any deontological code or an innovative method for 20th century glass applications? 01/04/2017 - 31/03/2018

Abstract

Since c. 1850, a diverse range of glass building blocks has been developed and integrated in buildings. Two types of glass building blocks are distinguished: (1) 'architectural glass' ; glass building blocks that have been produced in an industrial and semi-industrial way resulting in a mass product, and (2) 'dalle de verre windows' which are glass building blocks that are individually sculpted and that where used in artistic creations. The use of dalle de verre windows in buildings were very popular during the 1960s and the 1970s. Such windows are composed of the building blocks that are embedded in concrete or mortar that is reinforced by metal bars. Unfortunately, many of these windows show several types of damages such as corrosion of the reinforcement, pulverization of the mortar or cracks in the glass building blocks. The causes of fracturing are multiple and they result in a complex three dimensional network of cracks and fissures inside the glass element. In this project we want to explore the possibility to reheat broken glass building blocks as a way to bond the fragments together. This method has been rejected by the heritage community for the preservation of stained glass windows. For this, new dalle de verre blocks will be purchased, they will be broken and subjected to different firing cycles (i.e., time vs. temperature curve used during firing). The results will be compared with several reference bonding techniques that are generally accepted by the heritage community. Besides optimizing this method, it is also necessary to develop a procedure to upgrade an experimental treatment to a generally accepted conservation-restoration method. Such a formally accepted validation procedure does not exist in the domain of conservation-restoration.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation of wall lights. 18/02/2017 - 31/03/2018

Abstract

The conservation and restoration of gilded bronze wall lights in the collection of the Province of Antwerp. Research on the golden finish layers, structural integrity, cleaning, protecting for the future and restoring their practical use.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation and restoration treatment of porcelain objects 04/11/2016 - 01/09/2017

Abstract

Starting in 2017 the students of the department ceramics conservation will be researching and treating some porcelain objects from the museum STAM at Gent. The main problem are the multiple restoration treatments these objects received over the years, because of the multiple layers of paint covering a big area of the surface it's impossible to state the damage. Not only does this causes a risk for further deterioration, the paint job adversely affect the beauty of these objects. The student will research the history of these objects, their meaning, and all the materials needed for the production of this kind of pieces. With the help of relevant literature and extensive testing the students propose a treatment. This treatments includes; removing older forms of restorations, cleaning of the surface, attaching broken pieces, fill in gaps, and painting the fillings. In this way we can give these objects a second life and prepare them to be showed to an audience.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research, desalination, conservation and restoration of a collection of Delft tiles from the Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp (Belgium). 01/12/2015 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

This project is about the conservation and restoration of a collection of 45 "delfts' tiles from the collection 'Museum aan de stroom" in Antwerpen. The tiles were infected by salts witch was clearly visible on the subfluoresce salt crystals. This research and project focused on the quantitative en qualitative detection of the salts, desalination and removal of the old restoration materials such as old glues and filling materials. Afterwards, the tiles were restored again with ParaloidB72. Gaps were filled with a paste of calcium carbonate and barium sulphate. The decoration and glazes was re-integrated with water based acrylic colors and varnish applied with the airbrush technique.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Vandevijvere Melissa

Research team(s)

Conservation treatment of three stained-glass panels. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The conservation-treatment concerns three stained-glass panels from Museum M at Leuven. One panel is a fragment of the 19th c. glazing of the City Hall in Leuven, a second one depicts St John and is partly 16th c., the third one originates from the Hospital of St Peter and depicts a scene of the Story of the Prodigal Son. This latter panel has been produced in the circle of the workshop of Jan de Caumont.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation of an 18th century costume collection Mergelynck 01/10/2015 - 30/06/2017

Abstract

In this project a 18th century costume collection is studied and conserved. The study focusses on historical and material research such as fibre analysis, a technical research of the used techniques and a pattern study.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation of stained-glass panels from the Antwerp City Museums 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

Conservation of 16th and 17th C. stained-glass panels from the Antwerp City Museums. Before defining a treatment proposal, the damaged panels were studied, both historically and technically. The conservation treatment aimed at a sustainable future conservation and appropriate presentation to the public.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Typological evolution of window glazing in the County of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant. 01/07/2015 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

This research concerns the evolution in window glazing in architecture in the County of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant between 1400 and 1900. Initial research will be conducted on the typological evolution: historical texts and images will be investigated, existing historical glazed windows will be examined and chemical analysis of historical glass will be performed. The project is meant to be a step stone towards a deeper PhD-project.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Multipurpose applications in conservation research of a high performance 3D-light microscope: Heritage seen from another dimension 01/07/2015 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

The characterization of materials with light microscopy is usually limited by a limited depth of sharpness, resulting in partially sharp images of non flat surfaces. Therefore, the maximum magnification is limited to x100-200. The magnification of conventional microscopy can be enhanced using the z-stacking method, but it can never achieve the presentations of the new generation 3D-microscopes such as the DSX500 of Olympus.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Conservation of 6 stained-glass panels 23/09/2014 - 05/07/2016

Abstract

Conservation of 16th and 17th C. stained-glass panels from the Antwerp City Museums. Before defining a treatment proposal, the damaged panels were studied, both historically and technically. The conservation treatment aimed at a sustainable future conservation and appropriate presentation to the public. This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Study Collections a challenging context within universities and museums. 15/07/2014 - 01/10/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research on the corrosion of lead-antimony alloys in simulated museum atmospheric conditions 01/07/2014 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

Museum collections hold art objects in lead-alloys with a high antimony content besides tin, copper or iron. Historic type, harpsichord rosettes or lead cames in stained-glass windows are examples. In some cases, these alloys show an extreme type of corrosion development. The relation between the alloy content ratios, the microstructure and the environmental conditions is studied in function of the art objects conservation.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

X-Ray Fluorescence measurements on 40 lead organ pipes in the Sint-Paulus church, Antwerp 15/03/2014 - 30/06/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal service agreement between UA and on the other hand Kerkfabriek. UA provides Kerkfabriek research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Examination of 20 lead rosettes in Ruckers harpsichords by means of X-ray fluorescence (XRF). 05/12/2013 - 28/02/2014

Abstract

The aim of this project is to determine by X-Ray Fluorescent measurements the alloy composition of lead roses from Ruckers chlavichords to find a relation to their manufacturing and period. In 80% of the measured roses there was a relation shown between the alloy composition and the makers from generations of Ruckers chlavichord builders family.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Air Identification Registration for Cultural Heritage: Enhancing Climate Quality (AIRCHECQ). 01/12/2013 - 31/05/2019

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Schalm Olivier

Research team(s)

Silver-stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels before the French Revolution: Flanders, Vol3: the Provinces of Flemish Brabant and Limburg. 05/11/2013 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

European Lacquerwork in Context: art-historical, technological and chemical characterization of European Lacquerwork in federal collections (ELINC). 01/10/2013 - 31/05/2019

Abstract

This research project focuses on the technological history of European lacquers, with an emphasis on those made in our regions and special attention to japanned objects in the collections of the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH). The lacquers will be characterized by joint efforts of art-historical, technological and chemical research.

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Research team(s)

Plasma and Nano for New Age 'soft' conservation (PANNA). 01/10/2013 - 31/10/2014

Abstract

Objectives: - Advanced coatings for protection of cultural heritage assets. - Portable plasma torch for surface cleaning and deposition of protective coatings. - Self-diagnostic protective coatings for conservation of stone, metal and wall paintings. - Invisible marker coatings for identification and anti-counterfeiting purposes.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research, advice, emergency intervention and conservation-restoration of a peace of art of the Holy Blasius from the municipality Retie. 01/10/2013 - 30/06/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal service agreement between UA and on the other hand the municipality Retie. UA provides the municipality Retieresearch results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)