Could it be gold??

As mentioned in an earlier blog the XRF can be used to detect elements. During our XRF course we tried out the XRF on different museum objects. One of the objects was a piece of textile assumed to originate from a medieval dress dating back to the 13th century. The piece of textile was found in a cave closes to Selje monastery on the island of Selja together with other pieces of textile. Our textile conservator, when observing the textile through a microscope, detected the presence of gold like treads in some darker areas of textile. The suspected gold like treads is shown in the picture below (black and white arrows).

The piece of textile is woven in a pattern with lovebirds and geometric figures as shown beneath. The presumed gold treads is part of the lovebirds heads (gold like tread marked with black arrows).


This theory was tested by analyzing the textile piece with the XRF and we ascertained the suspicion! The measurement was taken with the “plastic” program, which is the XRF program calibrated with the broadest range of components. We measured for 30 seconds and established a presence of gold, which were further confirmed when we took a closer look at the spectrum of the measurement.

The spectrum of the measurement shows peaks for energy levels that assimilate the peaks for energy levels of pure gold. The presence of gold was thereby confirmed.


Collection Preventive conservation

Danger! Danger! Insects!

There are many dangers that threaten our natural- and cultural artifacts and it’s these dangers that conservators work to prevent. Among them are sunlight, water, heat, mold, insects and rodents. All these elements have a bad influence on objects and make them deteriorate faster. We all know what happens if you leave a colored t-shirt in the sun for too long or wash it repeatedly. The t-shirts color becomes faded and boring and it’s the same things that happen to museum objects if left in the sun or if people repeatedly use the camera flash on the same object in the exhibitions.

Small insects can also pose a great threat to objects and they are very hard to get rid of (as anyone who has tried a termite, ant or bedbug infestation in their own home knows). Insects can multiply very fast and feed off the museum objects and if they are left alone they can completely destroy objects. The picture underneath demonstrates how insects (in this case woodworm) can completely undermine the woods structure, and thereby destroy the object.

The picture under shows different species of woodworm as adults (woodworms are worms when they are born and mature into beetles like the ones on the picture).

In the past objects were sometimes treated with pesticides containing arsenic, mercury or lead to protect the objects against harmful insects. Today this practice poses problems to conservators as arsenic, mercury and lead are all toxic to humans as well as to insects and museum staff in  the past weren’t very good at recording what they did to which object. That means that conservators today have a hard time knowing what objects have been treated with these components and which haven’t. Today conservators use biological and mechanical non-toxic ways of preventing insects in museum collection but they can sadly never be completely avoided and they will always be a great danger to cultural artifacts.

Conservation Culture Nature Storage

How to XRF

This week the conservation department got a handheld X-ray fluorescence analyzer. The XRF NITON XL3t GOLDD+ pistol is to be used for material identification, a nondestructive way of examining metals, heavy metals and plastic components in the materials we will be working with. In the moving project we will investigate the usage of the XRF in testing highly poisonous metallic elements. The XRF unit can also be used to examine alloys and the chemical components in beads, color in textiles and pigments, which gives it a wide range of usage possibilities in the future.

Arne K. Bjerklund from Holger Teknologi introduced the XRF NITON XL3t GOLDD+ and gave a demonstration of the handheld pistol. Later he worked with the conservators, teaching us to use the unit and read the output. We got the new upgraded model with lower detection limits, detecting cadmium in plastics and very light components like chlorides and magnesium. We are all excited about the possibilities this new equipment will provide.


Collection Moving

Picture perfect

Moving so many precious objects is a great challenge. Many of them are big and difficult to handle and others are so small they are hard to keep track off. All the objects will be cleaned and checked before they are packed and send of to be frozen.  The reason most of the objects are frozen before they enter the new storage, is to be sure that they are free of possible pests so we don’t bring old contamination in. The remaining objects will be quarantined for a period so we can be sure they are “clean”.

Before any work can be done to the objects the conservators have to make sure that the objects are well documented. This means that we take photos and write down their conservational condition before we start doing anything to them. That way we are sure of how the objects looked before and after they are cleaned and moved.

Therefor the photo station is very important.  Here we take pictures of the objects and we have to make sure that the pictures show just how the objects look. The photos have to show the correct color of the object and it has to have the right exposure so that the object looks like what we see and isn’t too dark or too light.

The picture underneath shows how different an object (in this case a radio) can look when the camera isn’t properly calibrated.


We’re off!

Welcome to the moving projects new blog!

We, at the museums conservation unit, would like to welcome you all in this very first post. The great moving project will soon commence and therefor we thought it would be nice with a blog where everyone can keep updated on just what we’re up to. The museums conservation unit consists of a very international bunch of staff members that specializes in many areas of conservation. This blog is going to be our diary of the moving process and we hope to have news for you every 1-2 weeks. Here we will keep you updated on how the project is evolving, what we find (unexpected finds always occur during such a big project), what problems we encounter and the solutions we find. We also hope to post lots of pictures so you can get a look into the “hidden” side of the museum work.

We hope you enjoy!