• Kelsey inpainting on the Minor

    Retouching a painting for a senior honors thesis project

Identification of Artists’ Materials by Fiber-Optic Reflectance Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

by Brittany Smith

Fiber-optic reflectance near-infrared spectroscopy is a method of scientific analysis that boasts certain advantages as an analytical technique in the field of art conservation.  This technique does not require sampling, yet its spectra yield some information about a material’s chemical composition; also, the instrument and probe are small enough that analysis can be conducted in-situ. Unfortunately, this technique is not widely used, due in part to a dearth of literature on how it can be successfully employed. This research seeks to provide this information in a comprehensive manner as well as demonstrate the instrument’s validity as a method of identifying certain materials commonly found on art objects. The primary focus of this research is on two important components of a paint layer: the pigment and the binder. In order to identify an unknown material, first a library of standards has to be collected and their spectra printed for reference. Conveniently, the conservation labs at Winterthur already have an extensive collection of pigment samples prepared in various binders. These samples served as the standards to create a library of reference spectra.  Data can then be collected from a painting and compared to the reference spectra in order to determine what materials are present in the paint.

Spectroscopic Analysis of Hand-Colored Photographs and Photographic Materials

by Jonathan Hoppe, '10

The aim of this thesis project was to evaluate the effectiveness of spectroscopic techniques in examining photographic hand-coloring media that were the only practical methods through which color photographs could be produced until the 20th century.  To gauge the effectiveness of the techniques such as X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy, which reveals the elemental composition of a sample, and FT-Raman spectroscopy, which reveals information about the composition of a sample through the scattering of light, in identifying hand-coloring media, photographic paints and other materials from two mid-20th century kits called Marshall’s Photo Oils, from the John G. Marshall Manufacturing Co.  The two kits were successfully studied to determine the compositions of the materials and the pigments in the paints.  Knowing their compositions, and that spectroscopy could be used to study the materials, the usable paints from the kits were then painted onto period (ca. 1940-1945) silver gelatin prints, which were then subjected to the same battery of spectroscopy techniques to determine the most effective method(s) for studying media on photographs.  A combination of XRF and FT-Raman spectroscopy was found to be the most effective method.  Using these techniques, photographs colored with unknown media; the media on two photographs could not be identified, while those on a third, showing the author’s great-great-grandparents, were successfully identified as most likely being Marshall’s Photo Oils owing to nearly identical compositions to the samples studied from the kits.  Though more testing on other photographs is still needed to build an accurate picture, early results are promising.

Building a Relationship Between a University and its Surrounding Community:  The Community Remembrance Project Revisited

by Katie Uehling '09

In their mission statements, many colleges and universities fail to include establishing a healthy relationship with their surrounding municipalities and neighborhoods.  Yet maintaining such a relationship can help an institution prevent several economic and legal issues.  This project aims to explain the importance of building such university/community relationships through the analysis of the University of Delaware and its projects working with the New London Road Community, a once segregated African American community in Newark.  The University has a history of an increasingly poor rapport with their African American neighbors, a situation which worsened as the university began to expand rapidly in the 1980’s. 

When faculty at the University decided to embark upon a project to demonstrate the importance of art as social activism and the need to build relationships with surrounding communities, they chose to reach out to the African American community of New London Road.  Their efforts culminated in the Community Remembrance Project, a joint effort by the Department of Fine Arts and Visual Communications and the Center for Material Culture Studies.  The project began in 2004 and aimed to recognize and honor the cultural roots of the New London Road African American Community.  By working together with the citizens of the New London Road Community, the Community Remembrance Project produced a mosaic monument, a quilt, and two publications about the community’s history.  Along with the more tactile accomplishments the project also created a line of communication between the community and the University.  When the mosaic monument fell to disrepair unexpectedly a few short years after being constructed, it became the mission of this project to find a new way to simultaneously commemorate the community and continue to strengthen the relationship between the University of Delaware and the community.  

Appropriate Techniques for Surface Cleaning Inkjet Prints

by Tessa Gadomski '09

Inkjet prints are a new medium in the field of art conservation in relation to other art forms.  In order to establish why inkjet prints should be cared for, familiarity with the history and current uses of inkjet prints is necessary.  An understanding of the materials which create inkjet prints is essential in determining protocol for their care and treatment. Inkjet prints may be damaged by a variety of sources, and the longevity of inkjet prints may vary based upon which combination of materials has been chosen.

Establishing protocol for surface cleaning inkjet prints is a need within the field of art conservation, and was determined to be the goal of this project. The materials tested are widely used to create fine-art inkjet prints. The Epson Stylus Pro 4800 printer was chosen for this reason, and because it employs the K3 Ultrachrome ink set, which is pigment based. Two different microporous inkjet papers, Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster and Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk , were tested. A digital file, or “target,” was designed using well-known color space values, and used to create twelve sample prints. Preliminary quantitative measurements of changes in color were made, as well as qualitative analysis of surface sheen and dye migration. This analysis was repeated after testing.

The cleaning solutions tested were deionized water, a water and ethanol solution, and a PhotoFlo and water solution. These materials were chosen because they are common cleaning agents which are likely to be found in the labs of most photograph conservators. Two cleaning techniques were tested; application with a cotton swab and full immersion.

Results suggest that two of the cleaning materials used may be acceptable for future treatment of inkjet prints. Ethanol and water was determined to be inappropriate for cleaning the inkjet materials tested in this study, and immersion was determined to be inappropriate for prints created on Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. Cleaning with cotton swabs produced noticeable changes in surface sheen in paper white areas, but this technique may be acceptable for image areas. Further research of alternative cleaning methods and materials is suggested to yield conclusive results.


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  • Quest Fall 2011 Featuring Beth Knight
  • Quest Fall 2011 Featuring Beth Knight

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