What are the latest findings for an optimal removal of black crusts on stone surfaces? What new technique can be used to analyze plastic materials? How to investigate in a non-destructive and safe way the inside of a structure? How to deal with the study and restoration of a stained glass window?

Science evolves, research advances, and to obtain ever better results there is nothing more valuable than sharing knowledge. To find out about the latest research in the field of art diagnostics and the most interesting case studies, it was extremely useful to attend the Florence Heri-Tech Conference, now in its third edition, sponsored by the University of Florence and co-organized by the Department of Industrial Engineering. A conference that was part of the 2022 edition of the Art and Restoration Exhibition.

The Scientific Technical Committee of the Conference, coordinated by the General Chairs, Prof. Eng. Rocco Furferi, Prof. Eng. Lapo Governi, Dr. Eng. Anna Pelagotti, Prof. Eng. Yary Volpe, Dr. Kate Saymour, Prof. Rodorico Giorgi, selected as best article of the conference “Microwave imaging applied to noninvasive diagnostic of Cultural Heritage artworks“, by E. Proietti, G. Capoccia, R. Marcelli, G. M. Sardi, B. Caponera, of the CNR – Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems in collaboration with the VA-VE Institute, both in Rome.

The presented work concerns a prototype of portable tomography system for microwave imaging as a non-destructive diagnostic technique for the inspection of the entire volume of an artwork. This innovative technique can provide both morphological and physical information on the internal structure of the investigated object. It could be an instrument capable of both replacing tomography performed with X-rays in the laboratory, where using high energies rises safety issues, and above all providing the possibility of carrying out measurements in the open field, for example on the columns of a temple.

Another interesting work presented concerned plastic objects which are an increasingly important part in certain museum collections.

Contrary to popular opinion, plastic items are not very durable and are heavily subjected to environmental conditions. The degradation process starts already when the object is created, but the speed and type of the process can be very different. In the worst case, the degradation products of some materials are harmful not only to them, but also to other objects stored in the surrounding environment. The work presented proposed a non-destructive method to characterize polymers and additives that make up objects. The new technique uses hyperspectral imaging with a SWIR spectral range of 1000-2500 nm and Raman spectroscopy. The contribution “Spectroscopic Characterization of Sensitive Museum Plastic-Based Objects” was presented by A. Klisinka-Kopacz, P. Krupska.Wolas, M. Obarzonawski, A. Klosowska.Klechowska and J. Del Hoyo Melendez, of the Museum of Krakow (PL) .

A work that attracted a lot of interest was “Development of a New Cleaning Product for Heavy Metals Containing Facades” presented by Jens Engel, of the German company Remmers. The product discussed, Clean Galena, was developed to meet the demands of the French market , where the limits for the removal of black crusts using micro-sandblasting are very stringent, to prevent that the deposited metals are reintroduced into the atmosphere. In fact, the new product has proven to be extremely performing without requiring specific skills for application and removal.

There are plenty of other papers that would deserve a mention. In total, more than 140 contributions were received from 26 European and non-European countries. 101 were selected for a rigorous scientific review with the advice of more than 80 experts. All 86 accepted articles will be published in 3 volumes by Springer and indexed in the Elsevier Scopus database:

The volume Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering will publish 32 works carried out by 152 authors and concerning the engineering methodologies applied to the Cultural Heritage Sector.

In the volume Communications in Computer and Information Science , 30 contributions by 140 authors will be published, concerning the application of methodologies and technologies based on ICT applied to Cultural Heritage.

Finally, in the volume Advanced Structured Materials 24 works will be published, carried out by 86 authors and concerning the development of methodologies related to the application of advanced materials for restoration.

The great success of the event makes it one of the most important conferences at international level on the topic of technologies to support cultural heritage knowledge and conservation. A theme in which Florence continues to be leading worldwide.

Anna Pelagotti
Anna Pelagotti