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News Helping to bring back Notre Dame

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Left: Bartosz Dajnowski (right) doing laser cleaning tests on Notre Dame limestone with the newest GC-1X conservation laser cleaning system, that allows the user to fine tune important laser parameters such as fluence and pulse duration to achieve optimal cleaning results. A sheet of paper was used to mask of small test squares for each setting. LRMH conservation scientist Jérémy Hénin (left) is holding a portable fume extractor in position to capture the vaporized contaminants. Right: Detail of laser cleaning tests in progress on Notre Dame limestone. The original color of the limestone is uncovered and the original surface topography is preserved. (Images courtesy Bartosz Dajnowski.)

​WUDPAC Class of 2013 alumnus Bartosz Dajnowski of G.C. Laser Systems Inc. is helping conservators and scientists from France's Historical Monuments Research Laboratory (LRMH) with laser cleaning testing and protocols for treating fire-damaged masonry and artifacts from the Notre Dame cathedral. This part of the effort to restore the cathedral was the focus of a 90-minute documentary program recently aired on France2. An April 2020 article by Emmanuel Marolle on the project and clips from the documentary are available (in French) on the website for Le Parisien, here.

The work of LRMH scientists prior to the laser cleaning tests is featured in Science magazine, here. From the March 2020 article by Christa Lesté-Lasserre:

​A worker in the cathedral, photographed by the Gédéon Programmes film crew. (Image: Le Parisien.)

​At LRMH, the laboratory tasked with conserving all the nation’s monuments, [LRMH Director Aline] Magnien and her 22 colleagues apply techniques from geology to metallurgy as they evaluate the condition of Notre Dame’s stone, mortar, glass, paint, and metal. They aim to prevent further damage to the cathedral and to guide engineers in the national effort to restore it. President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to reopen Notre Dame by 2024, and he has appointed a military general to lead the operation, which involves many government agencies and has drawn philanthropic pledges of about €1 billion. But it is the LRMH scientists who lead the critical work of deciding how to salvage materials and stitch the cathedral back together. And even as they try to reclaim what was lost, they and others are also taking advantage of a rare scientific opportunity. The cathedral, laid bare to inspection by the fire, is yielding clues to the mysteries of its medieval past. “We’ve got 40 years of research coming out of this event,” says LRMH Assistant Director Thierry Zimmer. . . . The porous stones call for a different approach. One possibility is plastering them with a latex “silly putty” that can be pulled off along with the lead dust, [geologist and head of LRMH’s stone division Véronique] Vergès-Belmin says. A similar method uses a clay-based compress that dries and contracts, creating lead-filled “chips” that can be collected and disposed of. A third idea is to use laser cleaning. The scientists will begin to test various methods in two of Notre Dame’s chapels later this month. “We’re most likely looking at a combination of techniques,” she says.

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​WUDPAC alumnus Bartosz Dajnowski is working with French scientists on laser cleaning protocols for the fire-damaged masonry and artifacts at the cathedral.

​WUDPAC alumnus Bartosz Dajnowski is working with French scientists on laser cleaning protocols for the fire-damaged masonry and artifacts at the cathedral.

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Helping to bring back Notre Dame
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489