Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library is pleased to announce the
reopening of its Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory (SRAL)
after a $450,000 improvement that, among other things, will
allow visitors to observe the important work that happens there, at the
interface of art and science.
The SRAL opened October 1, after more than four months of work that
updated its heating-ventilation-air conditioning system, created a more
functional floor space, and installed custom lab furniture and new
windows. The lab houses 11 high-tech instruments
and several microscopes that museum scientists employ to identify the
materials used in objects of art
in nondestructive and minimally invasive
ways. Winterthur scientists collaborate with conservators, curators,
students from the renowned Winterthur/UD Program in Art Conservation and
the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture,
preservation students, other museums, and visiting scholars from around
“We are very excited about the possibilities our improved lab will afford, especially the opportunity to engage with the public.
The renovated lab will facilitate the study, preservation, and conservation of the important works in Winterthur’s
unique collection, as well as host
state-of-the-art preventive conservation and treatment research,” said
Dr. Rosie Grayburn, Head of SRAL.
The SRAL is one of only 18 museum laboratories in the United States.
It is also one of the most well equipped. Opened at the behest of
Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont, shortly after his death in
1969, it is equal to similar labs at such esteemed
institutions as the Smithsonian and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The
SRAL also occasionally conducts science for other exhibitions and
institutions. The SRAL renovation was the first since it opened nearly
50 years ago.
Recent work in the SRAL includes an investigation of the toxicity of
antique mirrors and looking glasses, finding new ways of identifying and
conserving silver objects, and the study of materials and methods of
manufacture of Chinese-export lacquered objects
attributed to production in Guangzhou (Canton) from the 18th to 19th
Maria Joao Petisca, a doctoral candidate in the Preservation Studies
program at the University of Delaware, used the lab to identify
and understand the way various material were applied in the
manufacturing of Chinese
export lacquerware. “Working with the SRAL
allowed me to complete all the material analysis necessary for my Ph.D.
research,” she said. “It was crucial for my study to have the support
of a scientific lab like the SRAL at Winterthur
and to have access to state-of-the-art equipment. It was essential to
work with Catherine Matsen, who has extensive experience in lacquer
analysis.” Over the past four years, SRAL Scientist Catherine Matsen and
volunteer scientist Dr. Judy Rudolph have performed
various instrumental analyses on the materials of 41 Chinese export
lacquer objects. The results of material analyses contribute to the
archival research and object study involved in this multi-disciplinary
Renovation of Winterthur’s Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory was made possible in part by gifts from private funders.
Winterthur offers monthly tours of the Conservation Department. To schedule, call
800.448.3883 or e-mail