Research & Publication

Research is important to underpin the knowledge and proposals for care of collections, while the publication of knowledge gained allows others to build upon this foundation. Velson Horie has initiated and carried out a number of major research programmes, mostly in neglected areas of collections. He has upwards of 80 publications and is the author of a standard text book, Materials for Conservation, in print for over 20 years. He has been an editor of a number of scholarly publications, for example Studies in Conservation, The Conservator, the Butterworths series of Museology and Conservation, as well as individual volumes.

Materials for Conservation 2nd editionback to top

The continual struggle of conservators to ameliorate the deterioration of objects usually means adding other materials, both traditional and synthetic. These materials and methods are part of the sophisticated technology that has been developed to preserve, stabilise, and restore this heritage. However, conservators must have the knowledge to appreciate the potentials and pitfalls of any proposed technique, old or new. This is the standard text for students and practitioners alike, providing in convenient form an up to date summary of necessary information. This second edition incorporates the explosion of scientific understanding of polymers, particularly natural products, adding these insights to the expanding expertise and observations of conservators.

The first section explains physical and chemical properties which are important in the conservation process, i.e. application, ageing, reversal. The second section provides detailed consideration of the individual materials, current and obsolete, used in conservation, drawing out the factors relevant to their effects on objects. In four appendices, the properties of the polymers, solvents and their interactions are tabulated, H&S information, and a glossary of terms have been added.

This book should be on the bookshelf of every conservator who uses adhesives, consolidants or coatings, irrespective of which type of object is being treated.

Volatile Organic Compounds in paper degradationback to top

Comparison of the VOCs emitted by Whitaker's Almanack of 1903 and 1965, measured by SYFT-MS
Comparison of the VOCs
showing significant differences between books

Velson Horie led a research project at the British Library developing research methodologies for assessing the condition of books. Collections of 370 identical books published in London, 1900-2005, were gathered in each of the UK Legal Deposit Libraries, then subjected to a battery of assessments carried out by conservators in the libraries and by external research groups. In parallel, the volatile organic compounds emitted by books and archives were measured using both traditional methods and novel techniques. The identical books research demonstrated significant differences between the collections, but more importantly has created a unique resource for understanding long-term changes in real collections. The volatile organic compound research has opened up the potential of non-invasive monitoring of library, archive and many other heritage collections.

Cinema film conservationback to top

Reels of degrading film
Degrading film has released acetic acid which
has attacked the steel cans enabling the
iron compounds to catalyse further degradation.

Velson Horie in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University carried out research in the neglected field of conservation, funded by the National Film Archive, revealing why supposedly "archival" grade polymers used for copying deteriorating cellulose nitrate films were falling apart. Research was carried out on cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate and polyester cinema film and audio tape. Recommendations for improved storage methods to delay the onset of damage and for stabilising degraded films were developed.

Natural history specimen conservationback to top

SEM section of a mammoth tooth showing incipient failure of a cyanoacrylate adhesive on mammoth tooth
Section of a mammoth tooth showing incipient failure
of a cyanoacrylate adhesive on mammoth tooth

Inger Vestergaard carried out an investigation into the properties of adhesives used to join fossilised mammoth teeth. Five adhesives, poly(vinyl acetate) dispersion, Paraloid B-72, cyanoacrylate, epoxy resin, poly(vinyl butyral), were applied. The properties of the joins were assessed by scanning electron microscopy of sections, infra-red spectroscopy of mixtures and tensile tests of complete joins. Damage to the tooth was assessed as a result of joint preparation and fracture.