University Federico II
of Naples, Italy
European Chemistry
Thematic Network
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Chemistry and Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage is the complex of artifacts that, due to their historical, technical and artistic content, document the evolution of countries and nations.

A consumer good

The left figure shows a common consumer good (earthenware for flowers). A cultural artifact (an artistic handmade oval pot in ceramic, made in Caltagirone, Sicily, in the XV century, finely decorated with floral motif) is shown below.

The conservation of Cultural Artifacts, including restoration, protection and maintenance, is a must in order to assure their fruition to future generations.

A ceramic artifact of artistic and cultural value

Knowledge of the chemical (i.e. composition, structure, properties and reactivity), as well as physical nature of materials which are the components of a cultural object, and of the way of processing that was used, is an essential requirement of every conservation project.

In conservation of cultural heritage, Chemistry plays three main roles:
  • it enables to assess the state of conservation of the artifacts and to identify the factors responsible for degradation; to do so, it employs many, often sophisticated, analytical chemical techniques;
  • it allows to select the most suitable procedures for restoration, consolidation and protection;
  • following the conservation treatments, it is able to evaluate their effectiveness and durability.

A presentation about materials, problems and techniques concerned with artistic sculpture follows.