Next: saving artwork

Next: saving artwork

 

BY LINDA BAKER

1012 NextArt museums rely on protective coatings to shield outdoor sculptures from weather and air pollution. But figuring out how effective those anticorrosion coatings are and when they need to be replaced remains a challenge. Most evaluation techniques rely on visual cues, but at that point the damage has already occurred. The diagnostic process can also harm the sculpture, as it often requires exposing the underlying metal to the elements. Tami Lasseter Clare, a chemistry professor at Portland State University, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to test a new “electrochemical” diagnostic tool that would allow museums to quickly and safely evaluate such coatings. The innovation involves mounting surface electrodes to the sculpture; those electrodes measure “permeability to electrolytes,” an indicator of how protective the coating is, Clare says. The new technique doesn’t leave any residue. The director of the Regional Laboratory for the Science of Cultural Heritage Conservation, Clare is working on a related project testing an environmentally friendly waterborne coating, a project that may have applications for building and the bridge industry. “Most of the time, coatings for artwork are directly translatable to other materials,” says Clare. “But the reverse is not always true.”