Student Research

In addition to conservation treatments, second-year master’s degree students need to complete scientific research projects for the course ARTC-898, a requirement for the Master’s degree in Art Conservation (MAC).  The abstracts and posters from these projects are shown in this section.


Marissa BartzMarissa Bartz

In recent years there has been a surge of technical analyses applied to the understanding and evaluation of illuminated manuscripts. Due to the sheer volume and lack of exposure to the elements or human intervention, illuminated manuscripts make excellent sources of artists’ materials and techniques. This research was a collaboration with the other second-year paper conservation students at Queen’s University to examine eight manuscript leaves from the W.D Jordan Rare Book and Special Collections at Queen’s University. The manuscript leaves were donated to the Special Collections in 2016 from one donor. However, the leaves come from a variety of manuscripts thus potentially have a wide range of artists’ materials and techniques. One of the main questions that this study answers is whether the pigments, binders, and techniques used are consistent with the time frame to which they are attributed. The dates of the leaves range from the 13th to the 16th century. This study focused on the analysis of two of the leaves that included a choir leaf and a possible Italian legal treatise. They were analyzed using only non-invasive techniques including x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), external reflectance infrared spectroscopy (ER-IR), and multi-spectral imaging with the VSC 8000. These analytical techniques complemented one another well with XRF providing elemental data, ER-IR giving more information on functional groups and organic materials, and finally multispectral imaging showcasing underdrawings as well as the overall distribution of pigments. In addition to the technical analysis of the leaves, standards were made of known pigments and binders (gum Arabic and egg white) that were commonly used in the time of the manuscripts’ creation. These standards were examined using the same analytical instruments as the leaves for reference material This project not only expanded the understanding of manuscript materials and techniques, but also gave the Jordan Special Collections valuable information about the objects in their collections that they can now share with future researchers. Some of the artists’ materials identified were azurite, vermillion, and iron gall ink, which are consistent with the late medieval period. Additionally, UV imaging was able to make legible the faded text on the legal treatise thus allowing for future translation. 

Kristy Corcoran student researchKristy Corcoran

Russian isinglass is a highly celebrated adhesive, known for its excellent material and ageing properties. Often used in conservation, isinglass is prepared from the inner membrane of the air bladder of the sturgeon fish, traditionally sourced from Russia or other European countries. This adhesive has, however, become increasingly difficult to find and more expensive as the European sturgeon species are critically endangered. As a result, Russian isinglass has begun to fall out of favour compared with the more easily accessible cellulose-based or synthetic adhesives. There is, therefore, a growing interest in the possibility of using a different species of sturgeon for the continued use of isinglass in conservation. Through this research, sustainably sourced Canadian isinglass (fresh isinglass preparations from both Acadian and Shortnosed sturgeon species) was compared to six preparations of European isinglass (two Russian samples, one German and three listed only as European). Working and mechanical properties were evaluated by testing for flexibility and tack of the samples. Samples were artificially aged using Xenon arc bulb exposure to understand the degradation of aged samples. Analysis of samples before and after ageing was performed using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, colour spectrophotometry, gloss measurements, and pH testing. Results of this research indicated that Canadian isinglass had similar ageing characteristics to the European isinglass, with comparable results for all of the tests performed. It is therefore concluded that the more sustainable Canadian isinglass can be used as a viable replacement for European isinglass.

Michael Galardi student researchMichael Galardi

This research project was an analysis of a 19th-century quilt titled Tumbling Blocks from the Heritage Quilt Collection at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. The main goals of this research were the identification of deteriorating black textile fibers along the fold lines in the quilt and analysis of fiber samples to identify any mordants, dyes, or weighting agents that may be contributing to the degradation of the black textiles in the quilt. An initial condition assessment identified components of the quilt that are suffering from degradation. A Hirox microscope characterized and documented the different damaged textile pieces. Polarized light microscopy was used to characterize and identify the deteriorating fibers. Infrared spectroscopy complemented the identification results. Scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy were used to identify inorganic compounds in the fibers. Organic analysis of the textiles was carried out using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. This identified components of the dyes used in the production of the black textiles. The results of this research determined possible sources for the preferential damage to the black textile components of the quilt, including iron mordants, tannin dyes, and tin weighting. Based on these findings, preventive conservation measures were recommended, including flat storage and decreased light levels when on display.

Poster of Emily Joyce's student research, 2021Emily Joyce

Lucite 44, a poly (n-butyl methacrylate), was one of the early solvent-borne acrylic resins that mid-twentieth century artists added to oil paint to decrease drying time and increase fluidity. Canadian abstract painter, Gordon Rayner, regularly incorporated Lucite 44 into his practice, and noted its inclusion in the inscription on the reverse of his painting, Thank you Mr. Artaud. The unvarnished, matte surface of this painting exhibited localized areas of cracking, delamination and loss in the orange layer. A technical analysis of the painting was completed to characterize its pigments and binders, find an explanation for its delamination, and identify options for its consolidation treatment. The consolidation of this painting was complicated by the brittle and friable paint, and by the discovery of zinc soaps in areas of delamination. Paint samples and cross sections from the painting were examined using high resolution digital microscopy, ultraviolet fluorescence microscopy, x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, external reflectance infrared spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy to gather information on the painting’s layered structure and chemical composition. Microscopic analysis of the paint structure highlighted Rayner’s working process, while pigment analysis showed that the main pigments in areas of flaking were cadmium orange and zinc white. The discovery of zinc soaps through binder analysis informed the painting’s consolidation treatment and inspired the creation of sample boards using poly (n-butyl methacrylate) and oil paint mixtures for future study of delamination due to zinc soaps in Lucite 44 paint mixtures. 

Lavina Li student researchLavina Li

Technical studies that examine material composition through scientific analysis are commonly undertaken in museums and cultural heritage institutions to provide insight on preservation issues and provenance. In the process of planning such analysis on a poorly attributed Northwest coast frontlet from the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, it became clear that collaboration with possible source communities to garner consent and collectively generate information of interest needed to be an integral component of research. Unfortunately, while resources are available on collaborative care, use, and repatriation of Indigenous material heritage, far less information is accessible concerning collaboration in scientific analysis. For example, many museums have published their repatriation policies online, but policies, case studies, or reports that discuss collaboration in scientific analysis is sparse. The purpose of this project was therefore to elucidate current approaches of scientific analysis in institutions with significant Northwest Coast collections. This was done in two phases using thematic analysis. Firstly, guiding conservation documents and relevant museum literature were examined. Secondly, interviews with both non-Indigenous North American institutions and Indigenous cultural heritage centres were conducted in order to identify promising and problematic strategies of collaboration. Ultimately, results of thematic analysis showed that collaborative research is just one part of the complex, expansive area of community engagement and cannot be discussed in isolation from other issues surrounding decolonization. Results of this project informed future research at the Agnes, and, more broadly, will serve as a resource for other institutions seeking to forge similar collaborative relationships.

Emily McClain student researchEmily McClain

This research project investigated the origins of a wooden polychrome sculpture of St. Dominic or St. Thomas Aquinas. The sculpture was purchased in Vietnam but was thought to have French origins and been created any time from 1860-1910, aligning with the French colonial period of Vietnam. The goal of this research was to determine whether the sculpture was: 1) completed during the period of 1860-1910 in France with materials from the region and later brought to Vietnam; 2) completed with materials obtained in France, brought to Vietnam, and used in combination with materials and methods from Vietnam; or 3) completed in Vietnam with materials from the region. Nondestructive, non-contact X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) was used for preliminary elemental analysis of unique paint colors to guide sample taking for the techniques that followed. Bright field microscopy was used to determine the species of the wood and bright field and fluorescence microscopy were used to investigate the layering of the paints used in the sculpture. The paints were then analyzed by XRF to determine the elemental compositions of pigments. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) was used to identify organic materials in a coating covering the cloak, and preparation layer under the cloak. Results of the chemical compositions of the pigments and organic materials were verified with scanning electron microscopy-electron dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) analysis. Species of the wooden dowels included in the sculpture were tentatively identified as bamboo indicating the materials at least in part were likely harvested in or near Vietnam. The identification of pigments and organic materials was found consistent with historic materials used in both France and Vietnam during this time period.

Poster of Grace McLean's student research, 2021Grace McLean

In this research project, two medieval illuminated manuscript leaves from W.D. Jordan Rare Books & Special Collections at Queen’s University were investigated using non-destructive methods of analysis. The purpose of this analysis was to determine whether the materials and techniques employed are consistent with the presumed time period that the leaves were made. The leaves were purchased for the library’s study collection as a mixed lot of single pages from different manuscripts and are believed to date from 1250 - 1500. This case study, which was a collaborative project between the Master of Art Conservation candidates in the paper treatment stream, focused on a limited selection of leaves from the collection. Due to the nature of the objects, it was not possible for samples to be taken, but non-invasive material analysis was performed on-site at the Queen’s University Art Conservation Program facilities using a digital microscope, multi-spectral and hyper-spectral imaging, x-ray fluorescence (XRF), and external reflectance infrared spectroscopy. The digital microscope facilitated close examination of the leaves. The multi-spectral illumination and hyper-spectral imaging device aided in colorant identification. XRF analyzed pigments based on their qualitative elemental make-up. External reflectance IR was used for organic pigment analysis. The leaves were transported on temporary loan from the library for a short period during the Winter 2021 term for analysis.  In addition, standards were prepared using materials and techniques consistent with the Late Medieval period for comparison during analysis, and to bolster the existing FTIR reflectance library. Instrumental analysis was supplemented with research on the art historical context of illuminated manuscripts, and historic materials and methods of application that were commonly employed for manuscripts during the medieval period. Pigments including azurite, vermillion/cinnabar, iron gall ink, and malachite were identified using the complimentary techniques listed above, and through comparison with existing literature and the ER-IR reference library created. Though the reflectance FTIR library remains limited, a foundation has been created that can be built on by future researchers.

Poster of Jérôme Paquet's student researchJérôme Paquet 

This collaborative research studies the components of illuminated medieval leaves from the Queen’s University W.D. Jordan Rare Books & Special Collection that have been dissociated from their original bound parchment manuscripts. Although part of the same collection, these double-sided delicate leaves, created between the 13th and 16th centuries, originate from different manuscript sources. As these richly decorated leaves are often consulted and may be the only surviving remains of the manuscripts they were once part of, and thus are highly valuable objects, the maintenance of their original structural integrity during scientific examination is of most great importance. Technological advances in the last two decades have allowed conservators and scientists to examine such valuable and delicate objects with non-destructive analytical methods. Using non-invasive analytical techniques such as X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), external reflectance Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (ER-FTIR), and the VSC 8000 multi-spectral document system, this study analysed the pigments from two leaves, with a particular emphasis on the scientific examination of selected surface areas bearing the predominant colorants and gilding. To eliminate sample extraction and limit possible damage risks, reference samples were created and served as standards to which results obtained from the objects’ analyses were compared. These reference and comparative samples were created following medieval recipes. The processes, pigments, dyes, binders and gilding techniques used were mentioned in art historical, historical and scientific literature on medieval illuminated leaves. The main goal of this study was the characterization of the leaves’ components diversity through visual examination, multispectral imaging and non-invasive investigation. Such goal could therefore gave new insights into the authenticity, provenance, attribution and production of these objects, as little was known by the Special Collection about them. Building on previous research on illuminated parchment leaves, this study could also be a beneficial contribution by expanding knowledge on such artefacts. 

Gabriela Rosas student researchGabriela Rosas

For the past few decades, several studies of technical and analytical examination have been carried out on illuminated manuscripts to understand the complexity of the processes and materials used in the manuscripts’ manufacture and decoration. Illuminated manuscripts are complex objects with multiple materials and layers that include the support, binder and colourants. This research project was a collaboration between the second-year paper conservation students at Queen’s University to examine eight manuscript leaves from the W.D Jordan Rare Book and Special Collections at Queen’s.  This study combines in situ non-destructive analytical techniques on an illuminated manuscript miniature, The Visitation, from the 15th century.  The miniature was analyzed using only portable non-invasive techniques including portable x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), external reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ER-FTIR), multispectral imaging with the VSC 8000 and microscopic observations with the Hirox RH 2000 microscope. This analysis was supplemented with historical research about medieval manuscripts and their creation. In addition, standards were prepared using materials and preparation techniques consistent with the Late Medieval period for comparison during analysis and to bolster the existing external reflectance-FTIR library. Visual examination with the VSC and the Hirox identified different pigments layers, as well as their mixtures.  Pigments found to be consistent with the literature were: azurite, malachite, lead white and carbon black and iron gall ink.  Reflectance FTIR analysis has proven to be promising and complementary to XRF analysis, but more research analysis including more spectra libraries with different binders could be developed to support future pigment authentication. Secondly, a new procedure for the external reflectance-FTIR attachment was established as well as begin a library of reflectance spectra of artists’ materials. All the data will be made available to the WD Jordan Rare Book and Special collections so they can pass it on to future researchers of the leaves. 


Cailin Donohue Cser

Albumen photographs often account for the largest number of 19th-century prints within photographic collections. The thin substrate and inherent moisture sensitivities of albumen prints frequently impose limited treatment options. When there is unwanted media, such as ink, on the surface of an albumen print, there are important treatment considerations. Mechanically removing the ink with solvents and a cotton swab could result in abrasion of the image surface, irreversible damage from excess moisture, or further embedding the ink. While benzyl alcohol solubilizes the most common ballpoint pen inks, only a handful of gels have the ability to absorb polar solvents successfully without desiccating. For this reason, Nanorestore Gel® Medium Water Retention (MWR) and Velvesil Plus were compared as delivery systems for dissolving ballpoint ink with benzyl alcohol on historic albumen photographs. This study focused on the removal of two different inks: Bic® red and Parker® blue. Following various treatment approaches, changes to the topography of the albumen photographs were tracked using a Hirox digital microscope. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was used to confirm that no residues were left behind from the various treatment methods, while lateral dispersion of moisture was tracked using a fluorescein sodium salt to support visual analysis. The solvent-loaded Nanorestore Gel® MWR was more successful at clearing ink than the Velvesil Plus emulsification with benzyl alcohol; however, tidelines were a concern. A large part of this study focused on the behaviour of the Nanorestore Gel® MWR as it was loaded with benzyl alcohol and possible protocols for its use on photographic materials.

Winnifred Daley student researchWinnifred Daley

Water-resoluble acrylic paints are a recent development in the world of acrylic mediums. Several manufacturers created these water-resoluble formulas to increase options for artists who wished to use wet-in-wet and watercolour techniques while using acrylic paints. Research by Sims, Cross, and Smithen explored the colour stability and reversibility of Lascaux’s Aquacryl™, one of these new generation of paints. This research expanded upon previous work by exploring three clear mediums from two manufacturers to see if they displayed good ageing characteristics and remained water soluble over time. To determine ageing characteristics, samples of various brands of water-resoluble acrylic paints were measured for their colour and gloss, before and after light-based artificial ageing. Samples were also analysed with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy before ageing to identify components in their formulations. Control and aged samples were tested for water solubility through testing with swabs. The creation of the samples also provided the opportunity to make qualitative judgements about the handling properties of the paints. Information collected on the stability of the paints, their formulation, their handling properties, and their solubility helped establish that these mediums age well, remain reversible, and are appropriate for retouching.

La Farge student researchHope La Farge

The preservation and treatment of waterlogged archeological wood is an important topic to address because of changing climates. More and more wet archaeological materials have been exposed due to melting glaciers. For some time, waterlogged archeological wood have been most commonly treated with polyethylene glycol (PEG) or sucrose. The use of both of these compounds is known to prevents dimensional change and further degradation of wet wooden artifacts. However, each material has drawbacks. PEG has a long application process, color shifts have been observed, and more recently high relative humidity has been shown to degrade the wood compound. Sucrose has a tendency to be a pest attractant and migrates with temperature fluctuations and high relative humidity changes. Thus, due to In lieu of these preservation issues, it is pertinent to look at other materials. Recent research has been published into the application of organosilicon compounds with added active groups on waterlogged wood. Organosilicon compounds have the potential to support and stabilize dimensional change, reduce flammability, protect against decay, and reduce the impact from weathering. More recently the compounds have also been used as surface modifiers, binding agents, and adhesion builders in conjunction with nanoparticles in other conservation applications.  Preliminary results showed that (3-mercaptopropyl) trimethoxysilane (MPTES) had the highest potential for the treatment of waterlogged archaeological wood, with little dimensional or color change occurring. This proposed research project further investigates the effects of MPTES on waterlogged archaeological wood after accelerated aging, by exposing prepared wood samples to high relative humidity, at 100% RH for four days. The long-term preservation capabilities of the MPTES were analyzed by examining weight gain, color change, dimensional changes, and biodeterioration of the wood samples. These changes were examined with various techniques including Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Hirox microscopy, light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, color photometry, and a digital scale. Results indicate there was a significant decrease between initial weight and after airdrying for MPTES/ethanol treated samples, however the difference is not as drastic as untreated samples. Color difference is minimal in both the treated and untreated samples. Initial visual observations indicate minimal dimensional changes to the treated wood, however drastic detrimental changes to the untreated samples.

Emilee Lawrence student researchEmilee Lawrence

 Writing-On-Stone/Áísínai’pi (“it is written”) Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an important site of petroglyphs and pictographs. Located in Southern Alberta, the rock art and rock formations are extremely culturally and spiritually significant to many First Nations communities. However, due to environmental weathering, the inherent instabilities of certain rock substrates, as well as biological and anthropogenic impacts, there has been a loss of rock art panels. This research presents the preliminary evaluation of a Living Heritage Approach to conservation, using ethnographic methods to determine factors affecting the continuity of the original or intended function of the site, to inform future conservation practices and protocols at Writing-On-Stone/Áísínai’pi. Data collected from consultations with Elders of the Blackfoot Confederacy, which focused on the site significance, relationships with the site and landscape, traditional materials, and perceptions of conservation treatment and protocols, identified these factors which were then evaluated within Poulios’ (2014) Living Heritage framework. The results from this evaluation determined that in prioritizing the ties by the core community with Writing-On-Stone/Áísínai’pi and focusing on the preservation of the intangible and living qualities of the heritage, it was possible to identify meaningful and spiritually appropriate conservation and preservation strategies, allowing heritage to resume its’ active role in contemporary society. Additionally, through a Living Heritage Approach to conservation, it is possible to understand how the conservator can support sustainable conservation, by assisting the core or living communities in enacting their conceptions of conservation and preservation.

Marianne LeBel

Berlin work is a type of embroidery in which yarn is stitched onto an open-weave canvas, usually by following a grid pattern. It was the most popular form of needlework in the nineteenth century, being a very accessible craft due to its simple technique and to the wide availability of patterns. Among the frequent subjects embroidered by the practitioners of Berlin work is the reproduction of famous paintings. An example of these ‘needlepaintings’ is a large Berlin work, dated 1850, which reproduces Horace Vernet’s 1832 painting Raphael at the Vatican. Berlin work materials, like coloured yarn, were sold in specialized stores, ready to use by clients. Although wool was the most common fibre to be used for such embroideries, Berlin work repositories also sold other types of yarns which could be used for Berlin work. Before 1856, the yarn was usually coloured with natural dyes, which are known not to be lightfast and cause damage to the fibres during the dyeing process. The Berlin work of Raphael at the Vatican shows preferential degradation of certain grey yarns and discolouration of the middle portion of the object. The object was also exposed to moisture and possibly to pests. A technical investigation of the embroidery’s materials and degradation shed light on the causes of deterioration and informed the textile’s recommended treatment (procedures and materials for cleaning and repairs) as well as measures to be taken for its preventive conservation. Fibres were identified and their morphologies were assessed by polarizing light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The state of more degraded embroidered areas was compared to that of more intact areas by SEM and colorimetry. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) was used to give information on mordanting, and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry may be used at a later date to determine whether a purple dye is synthetic or natural in order to confirm the dating of the textile. It was found that the textile was created by embroidering wool yarn on cotton canvas. Quantifying the fading allowed to make informed guesses regarding the identity of certain dyes. The dark discolouration likely occurred because of chemical deterioration, and the selectively deteriorated wool was damaged because of corrosive iron mordants. Observations were made regarding the object’s materials and construction which might contribute to the emerging body of literature on Berlin work embroidery. 

Corrine Long

This a preliminary assessment of acrylic gel mediums. An assortment of acrylic gel mediums within the same brand were analyzed to understand them better as materials for artists and conservators. The main interest was to identify the thickening agent or agents and compare their chemical components to other acrylic paint using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Liquitex offers several different kinds of acrylic gel mediums that have variations in sheen and viscosity. The behavior of acrylic gel mediums as a paint film was studied by making samples of various acrylic gel mediums. These mediums were examined in three different thicknesses (6 mil, 12 mil, 0.5 cm). Historic and contemporary additives that have been identified and published in conservation literature on acrylics aided in identifying what additives are used in Liquitex gels and paints a picture of the evolution of the material. The samples were studied for hardness, color and gloss, before and after accelerated aging. The gloss gels were softer and the matte gels were harder; all gels yellowed after drying in the dark and no differences were noticed after accelerated aging. The properties of acrylic gel mediums are revealed from this study to help conservators understand them more so that measures can be taken to prevent damage; such as controlled storage and display methods.

Sydney Schaffer student researchSydney Schaffer

Acrylic emulsion paint is a common media used for canvas artwork; however, the lesser researched artwork is that of acrylic on paper. Identification of this technique can be difficult and can lead to a misidentification of the work, most commonly as a watercolor. Washing acrylic emulsion paint on paper could lead to irreversible changes in gloss and morphology of the acrylic surface; however, research into the use of gellan gum for cleaning is ongoing within the realm of conserving acrylic paint. This project explored the implications of gellan gum washing and identify if there was deterioration or changes in morphology to acrylic emulsion media on a paper substrate after cleaning. Gellan gum cleaning was to be compared with samples that did not undergo cleaning. The media of the samples examined were acrylic emulsion paints from Golden Artist Heavy Body Colors (titanium white, carbon black, phthalo green) diluted in distilled water at intervals of 2.5%, 5%, and 15% weight by volume. Two paper substrates were used: hot-press watercolour paper and cold-pressed paper. The onset of the coronavirus in March 2020 halted the research project. A pilot study was conducted and samples were prepared for future research. The eraser crumbs and gellan gum seemed to be the least disruptive to the surface of the acrylic wash under visual observation. In the initial findings of the experiment, gellan gum may be a suitable candidate for cleaning diluted acrylic paint on paper. In future research, cockling of the paper with the use of gellan gum should be addressed.

Lindsay Sisson

Developments in the use of rigid polysaccharide gels for targeted cleaning of works of art on paper over the past twenty years have provided conservators with more control and flexibility for modifying their treatment options to the needs of the individual objects. Rigid polysaccharides such as gellan gum (Gg) have many advantages including flexibility in their preparation (different aqueous solutions and the addition of organic solvents to the gel); modification of their concentration and thickness; precise and localized control of the gels; and easy removal from the object’s surface. Recent research has been focusing on the ability to introduce additives into the Gg to modify its efficiency; however, it is unclear how these additives affect the surface swelling of paper, potentially and irrevocably affecting the paper surface. In addition, the conductivity and pH of the water used in preparing the rigid polysaccharide gels may also affect the degree to which paper fibres swell. This study explored the surface swell behaviour of Gg infused with a deacidification additive, calcium propionate, using adjusted water at various conductivity levels. Two kinds of paper, a smooth, kaolin-containing calendered paper and a rough, gelatin-sized cold press Arches watercolour paper, were used to assess any differences in the conformability of modified Gg to the surface of different paper surface topographies. The two sample sets of paper were examined before and after treatment for topographical changes using a Hirox RH 2000 3D-microscope (Hirox). The Hirox captured a digital three-dimensional model of the paper surface that allowed for closer examination of surface swelling characteristics. Originally, this research expected to provide further information regarding the properties of modified Gg; however, there were several limitations and variables that appeared during these experiments including concerns with the sample preparation, instrumentation errors associated with the pH and conductivity measurements, and issues concerning reproducibility with the Hirox. As a result of these limitations and variables, it was difficult to draw any valuable conclusions from the data collected and each of these issues must be examined in order for future research of this nature to yield accurate results. 

Annick Tremblay student researchAnnick Tremblay

The aim of this research was the analysis of an oil on copper painting that was possibly painted by Italian painter Guido Reni (1575-1642), with the purpose of obtaining information about its materials and construction technique and finding any possible similarities with paintings by Reni or his studio. Non-destructive and micro-invasive methods were selected to characterise the painting’s components and its copper support. Non-destructive analyses included photo-documentation (normal light, raking light, ultraviolet radiation, infrared reflectography, X-radiography, electron-emission radiography [EER]) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Micro-invasive analyses included Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and polarised light microscopy (PLM). XRF provided preliminary results about the elemental composition of the copper panel and the pigments – lead white and an arsenic-containing pigment such as cinnabar – but the information was limited due to the interference with the metallic substrate. FTIR provided further evidence about the pigments, especially earth pigments, a natural resin as a possible binder and confirmed the presence of copper carboxylate, a deterioration product of copper. Interestingly, no peak for drying oils was found, thus demonstrating the necessity of further analysis with gas chromatography – mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) to refine the results. All samples were then examined under PLM to characterise all found pigments. This study confirmed the use of Prussian blue, a pigment traditionally found in historical paintings from the late 1730s onward, therefore eliminating Guido Reni as a potential artist. Unfortunately, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy could not be carried out as planned due to the limited access to laboratories during the COVID-19 crisis.

Kaoru Yui

In 2014-2015, the Master of Art Conservation program at Queen's University obtained three Egyptian coffins dating to the Third-Intermediate Period. Both technical analysis and digital imaging were performed on the white-type anthropoid inner coffin, which is recognized as a rare type of coffin. The materials, layering structure, and areas of loss and vulnerability of the coffin were examined. This project focused on the white coffin to identify materials that remain unstudied, including the species of wood used for dowels and splines with polarized light microscopy (PLM), Hirox digital microscopy and environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM); and the binding medium for the pigments with chemical spot tests and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The wood was identified as tamarisk. The binding medium was identified to be proteinaceous or starch-based materials. The second part of project included the evaluation of possible conservation treatment methods and materials, including cleaning using cosmetic sponges and monitoring using the Hirox digital microscope; also, the change in colour after using consolidants for the wood was measured with a spectrophotometer. Based on the evaluation results, a partial conservation proposal of superficial dirt cleaning with cosmetic sponges was provided. The experiment for the evaluation of consolidants was interrupted because of the university closure due to COVID-19 pandemic.  Another important aspect of this research project was to address the ethical considerations surrounding the treatment of the decontextualized mortuary object. Through the study of partial hieroglyphs preserved on the coffin fragments and archival research, the reconsideration of the object’s values was discussed. The entire research project included steps towards the long-term goal to reconstruct the coffin. 


Bardovagni student researchSara Bardovagni

Jade R is a polyvinyl acetate/ethylene copolymer dispersion (VAE), making it a subtype of polyvinyl acetate polymers (PVAC). Jade R’s purpose is much like that of Jade 403, another VAE dispersion, since it is meant to be used primarily as a consolidant or adhesive in conservation treatments. However, Jade R distinguishes itself from previous Jade products by being reversible in water after it has dried as a film. Jade R is commonly used for repairing tears in canvases in painting conservation, and it may also have potential use in paper and book conservation for tear repairs and rebinding projects. The goal of this project is to provide conservators with preliminary information about Jade R’s stability and reversibility as it ages so that they will be better informed in making future conservation treatment decisions with this adhesive. To achieve this goal, the possible aging characteristics of the following properties of Jade R have been evaluated before and after accelerated light degradation: 1) Reversibility in ethanol, acetone, xylenes, and water  2) pH  of dried film extract  3) Composition of Jade R and its soluble components 4) Degree of yellowness 

To conclude, Jade R is quite stable according to aging tests done in this project, as it maintains an alkaline pH and resists yellowing in the short-term. It has also been revealed that lantic sugar is used as and additive in Jade R. Unfortunately, reversibility tests conducted in this project did not have conclusive results. Nonetheless Jade R’s chemical properties and short-term stability make it a very promising adhesive in conservation. Thus, further aging studies, perhaps with varied mixtures of solvents and water, should be conducted to learn more about this VAE adhesive. 

Elizabeth Couling student researchElizabeth Couling

There is no current method to effectively kill or inhibit active mould on an acrylic paint surface without causing some degree of further damage. In recent studies, bioactive essential oils have been used to successfully kill and inhibit active mould growth on cultural objects. In this study, the comparative effects of Origanum vulgare (oregano) essential oil and ethanol (70% in water) on acrylic emulsion paint films were evaluated. Optical changes in the paint films were monitored using both glossimetry and colorimetry and through the evaluation of surface morphologies. In their volatile states, both reagents induced some paint swelling. Significant change, however, occurred in only one case: young titanium white paint films exposed to ethanol (70%) for twenty-four hours, which underwent a permanent visible increase in surface gloss. Exposure to either reagent in its liquid state caused significant surface changes in the paint films, most extreme in the case of O. vulgare. In practice, mould remediation is most often performed by administering a liquid mist of polar organic solvent onto the affected surfaces, whereas essential oils are applied as a vapour. The results of this study show that exposure to the vapours of O. vulgare essential oil cause less optical changes in acrylic emulsion paint films than exposure to liquid ethanol (70%), or no perceptible change at all. Further research should evaluate the effects of extended durations of exposure to the essential oil, potential changes in the acrylic paint’s mechanical properties, and the possibility and implications of essential oil residues. 

Kim student researchSally Gunhee Kim

The purpose of this study was to test the potential of a commercial product, La Doll Clay, as a fill material for ceramics. La Doll Clay is an air-dry clay manufactured by Padico Co., Ltd. and is distributed in North America by Activa Products Inc. La Doll Clay has been widely used in the global community of professional doll artists, but not in the field of art conservation, at least within English-speaking countries. The clay has unique working properties that make it a prospective substitute for plaster of Paris as a fill material for ceramics. This commercial clay air-dries with minimal shrinkage, is very pliable, is miscible with water, adheres to various substrates (e.g. glass, plastic, wood), and readily accepts acrylic, oil and water-based paints. Even when dry, additional clay can be added with a few drops of water. When solidified, La Doll Clay can be sanded into a smooth finish. Unfortunately, the chemical composition and mechanical properties of the clay are not publicly released, nor have they been investigated specifically for the treatment of ceramics. Thus, the chemical components in the clay were identified with x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and polarized light microscopy (PLM). Also, the physical properties of the substrate were measured using Vickers hardness, three-point bending and volume shrinkage tests. The findings were then compared with those of plaster of Paris for effectiveness in treating areas of loss. The clay was concluded to be not a good substitute for plaster of Paris.  

Martha Griffith student researchMartha Griffith

Set against the backdrop of the second world war, 150 artists and cultural workers from across Canada met in Kingston, Ontario, to discuss art materials and the role of the artist in society. During the 1940s, several Canadian painters experimented with the ‘mixed technique’ including André Biéler, the conference organizer.  Biéler was an influential artist in Canada and a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario for 27 years. As such, his artistic technique, use of materials and instructional methods influenced other artists of the period. In collaboration with the Agnes Etherington, this research investigated Biéler’s use of the ‘mixed technique’ in his 1943 painting Wartime Market. Wartime Market was examined through archival research and technical analysis to determine if his didactic materials reflected his own painting practice. Technical analysis began with photographic documentation and examination to identify potential coatings and underdrawings. Photographic techniques included normal light photography, ultraviolet examination, infrared reflectography and X-radiography. Further analysis included cross-section analysis to identify the painting’s layer structure, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to identify prominent pigments and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) to identify the binding agents. Next, a partial replica was painted based on Biéler’s didactic materials found in the Queen’s University Archives. Samples from the replica were artificially aged and compared to samples from Wartime Market using FTIR analysis. Analytical results and the results of the painted replicas indicated that Biéler likely used a natural resin and a protein, such as dammar and egg, for his binder. Additionally, Biéler may have used linseed oil in the binder, but results are inconclusive with FTIR. Lastly, cross-section and photographic examination revealed that Biéler applied his paint in a series of layers that he called the ‘indirect method,’ as outlined in his teaching materials. 

Jessica Lau student researchJessica Lau

The Painters of Canada Christmas Card Series (c. 1931) was an early endeavour by the Canadian graphic art company Sampson-Matthews Ltd. (1918-1980) to produce serigraphs that would popularise the works of Canadian artists throughout the nation.  However, due to the economic instability of the time, the series was a financial failure and the surviving cards now remain scarce.  One of these serigraphs, The Red Canoe by J.E.H. Macdonald, was deposited for conservation treatment by a private client to the paper conservation lab at Queen’s University. The media layer of the print showed a severe state of deterioration, with major areas of delamination and cracking.  The goal of this project was to determine an approach for the consolidation of thick brittle ink on paper, and to minimize testing on the original print by creating artificially aged mockup samples.  A technical analysis of the materials and methods of The Red Canoe was therefore carried out, with a primary focus on the identification of the binder.  Scanning electron microscopy/ energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) were used to identify two pigments: ultramarine blue and lithopone (i.e. barium sulfate and zinc sulfide).  Zinc carboxylate salt was also identified in the FTIR spectrum, but the identity of the binder remained inconclusive.  Mockup samples could not be created due to insufficient results, and testing was instead carried out on minimally invasive areas of the print. 

Charlotte Parent student researchCharlotte Parent

The historic arts of Africa take on many critical roles in their communities of origin: they are instruments of knowledge, bridges between the living and the ancestral or spiritual, agents of memory, implements of private and social well-being, and actors in the political life of a community. The meaning and spiritual value of African figures is rooted in their use, which is often visible in the form of ritual materials accumulated on their surfaces. When those African objects entered Western collections, they often did so without proper documentation or provenance information. Concerns about the degradation of accumulative surfaces and about their potential harmful effects on other objects within collections are hard to address without adequate knowledge of their composition. This project focuses on three wooden figures from the Justin and Elisabeth Lang Collection of African Art of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre: a Phuungu figure (Yaka people, Democratic Republic of the Congo - M84-330), a Butti power figure (Teke people, Democratic Republic of the Congo - M84-408) and an Iran figure (Bidjogo people, Guinea-Bissau - M84-369). These ritual objects display a range of pre-collection accumulative surfaces. This project looks into these accumulative surfaces: their material composition and the ethical implications of identifying their constituent components. Much effort was placed in conducting a project which is culturally appropriate and which seeks to preserve both the tangible and intangible aspects of the objects. Art historical and ethnographical research informed decisions as to how far conservation research can reasonably go in its quest for scientific knowledge in the case of these sensitive objects. In order to perform scientific analysis of the objects, X-radiography, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), chemical spot tests and polarized light and stereo microscopy were used. Combining these analytical techniques provided information about the types of materials present as well as the structure (stratigraphy) of the surfaces. The substances identified on the three figures include oil or fat, waxes, resin or gum, proteinaceous materials (including blood), camwood, starch, charred organic material, ground vegetable material, quartz, pumice, and clay materials. It is hoped that the information gained in the course of this project will facilitate the preventive care of the three figures, allow for a better understanding of under-studied objects within the collection of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, add to the conservation literature regarding the nature of accumulated materials on African objects, and contribute to the development of culturally-appropriate research methods in conservation. 

Carina Profir student researchCarina Profir

Metals exposed to variable and uncontrollable environmental conditions are typically coated in order to protect them and maintain their longevity. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) is a non-destructive method that has been used to measure and predict the performance of a coating on metal. In the context of cultural heritage, EIS has been used extensively to test a number of coatings, especially on bronzes. There has been less published on the use of EIS to test coatings on iron and steel artifacts, which can include anything from historical artifacts, industrial objects, or contemporary sculpture. The quality of a coating depends on a number of factors, including application methods, and temperatures and humidity levels under which the coating should be applied, as recommended by specific manufacturer instructions. However, because of time, budget, and other factors, conservators and heritage technicians may be required to apply these paints or coatings under less than ideal conditions, thus compromising the quality of the coating. EIS was used to detect differences in the performance of wax coatings applied to steel coupons under two environmental conditions: 1) ambient conditions in a conservation laboratory (18 - 20°C, 31 - 32% RH) and 2) outdoor conditions in a residential area (0°C, 50 - 68% RH). EIS measurements of the coupons were taken before and after accelerated aging in a temperature and relative humidity chamber, for a period of 20 days. Preliminary results show great variability in impedance values, Z, from between coupons and coupon set, with higher values for coatings applied outdoors, overall.  

Raphael Shea student researchRaphael Shea

This research project was initiated after a private art collector believed that two paintings that he and his wife owned looked to be by the hand of the same artist. Both were oil paintings on panel circa 1920 which appeared to be plein air oil sketches depicting scenes from the French coast. Both showed heavy impasto and were painted with a similar gestural manner while showing some similarities in the color palette. One painting was an autographed painting by the Scottish/Canadian artist Berthe Des Clayes; the other was an unsigned painting with the possibility of the same authorship. Using scientific analysis, this technical examination compared the two paintings to determine how similar the methods and materials were. The technical methods of analysis included normal light examination and photography including raking light, ultraviolet radiation, infrared reflectography, and x-radiography. X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) was used to analyze the ground and pigment layers. Scientific analysis involved micro samples taken to produce material for infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and for cross-section analysis with polarized light microscopy (PLM). Further, environmental scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (ESEM-EDS) was employed to better determine the elemental composition of the ground and pigment layers found in the sampled cross sections. The methods of analysis produced many similarities between the paintings, including very similar paint application and layering structure. Other similarities included many common pigments and their use in similar paint layers. FTIR produced strikingly similar spectra from samples taken from each painting. The technical data suggested a consistency between the two works, possibly indicating that the unsigned painting could be by Berthe Des Clayes. 

Emily White student researchEmily White

For hundreds of years, woodcuts have been appreciated for their two-dimensional black-and-white design, although they were frequently made to be hand-coloured. The colour applied to these prints, especially to those produced in the early modern period, has been derided or ignored by writers, omitted from reproductions and catalogues, and even washed off by some collectors. Only recently have scholars begun to overturn the assumption that the addition of colour was secondary to the printing process. Investigations into the language used to describe coloured prints, the roles of production and materials used in printing studios, and the function of prints as objects in the early modern period, have considered the role of colour in early printing. Despite this increased interest, few technical studies have examined how non-invasive imaging techniques can enhance our understanding of coloured print production. This research investigated whether the computational photography technique, reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), can be used to effectively characterize the processes used to hand-colour woodcuts. A woodcut edition was printed, hand-coloured with and without a stencil, and imaged with RTI. The resulting files were analyzed for evidence of colouring processes on the print surface. Analysis showed that RTI is likely unnecessary to characterize hand-colouring processes but revealed that RTI could be useful for the documentation and technical analysis of stencil-coloured woodcuts. 

Alexandra K. Zmijowskyj student researchAlexandra K. Zmijowskyj 

After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, there were incidents of flooding wherein mould growth was observed on paper objects left in high humidity conditions, but this mould growth was not observed in a saltwater logged paper in the same room. Consequent studies have been carried out on copy paper to assess the efficacy and protocol for using saltwater in disaster recovery situations. However, the lasting effects of such saltwater interactions have not been investigated. This particular research examined the effects of the saltwater salvage treatment on an acidic, wood pulp paper, acting as a representative example of materials that would be found in a library or archival collection. Samples were immersed in a 3.5% aqueous solution of NaCl and then artificially aged in sealed glass tubes at a constant, elevated temperature. The tensile strength, moisture content, thickness, and pH of the samples that have undergone the saltwater salvage process were measured and compared to a control sample to evaluate the impact of the saltwater on the paper. The submersion of paper samples in a salt bath followed by a rinse in distilled water was found to have made the paper stronger and more alkaline than if it was submerged in distilled water alone. These results suggest that the saltwater salvage method, when carried out with a sufficient rinse, does not adversely affect acidic paper.   


Poster of Bronwyn Bond's student research, 2018Bronwyn Bond

Christiane Pflug (1936-1972) is an important German-born Canadian artist who has become known for her unique detailed drawings and magical realist painting style. Her artistic beginnings began in 1953 when she went to study fashion design in Paris, France. During this time, she met her future husband Michael Pflug who encouraged her to pursue painting. Christiane relocated to Tunis, Africa in 1956 and immigrated to Canada in 1959. These transitions significantly influenced the subject matter of her work which centered on themes of her surrounding environment and her domestic interior spaces. Many of the works she produced in her short life now reside at several public Canadian art collections.

The purpose of this research was to conduct a technical examination of her art, with a focus on those on paper, housed at the Agnes Etherington Art Center (AEAC). Non-invasive methods were used to identify her material preferences and trace her artistic developments as she moved from Europe to Africa, and then to Canada. These methods included stereomicroscopy as well as technical imaging using visible light photography, raking light photography, transmitted light photography, infrared (IR) photography, IR reflectography (IRR) and ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence (UVF) photography. At the same time, this research explored the function of Christiane’s works, specifically, her graphite drawings and their relationship to her oil paintings on canvas. Ultimately, this project hopes to generate interest in this under-recognized artist and contribute to the limited body of knowledge surrounding her work.

Poster for Courtney Books' student research, 2018Courtney Books

Textile bioartists often seek to extend the life spans of biomaterials subject to quick deterioration (e.g. rose-petal tapestries, cellulose-based leather). In compliance with the environmental safety of open-gallery display, bioart must be neutralized of biological activity, demanding the development of preservation methods that provide: 1) for the artist, a retention of the textile material as a plastic, pliant form and 2) for the conservator, the transfer of non-toxic, anti-biodeteriogen, and non-hygroscopic properties to the material.

Intersecting spheres of heritage conservation and material creation, this research presents the results of collaboration between the Art Conservation Program at Queen’s University and textile artist WhiteFeather Hunter at the Speculative Life Biolab, Concordia University. As a preliminary study, the goal was to create an immersion treatment for cellulosic biofilm to exist externally from containment while preserving life-like qualities of pliancy and fluid retention.

Immersion treatments were designed to reduce hygroscopicity and to minimize cellular-wall damage experienced by the biofilms during and after dehydration. Specific materials were tested for their physiochemical performances: collagen as plasticizers, polyols as consolidants, and either sugars or polyether compounds as preservatives. Procedural testing included sterilization and cyclic osmotic treatments (dehydration and immersion transfer of fluids via capillarity) applied to the biofilm test substrate: a yeast-derived, acetic acid bacterial cellulose. Technical analysis included ASTM cantilever bend tests to evaluate pliancy, mass/weight calculations to indicate fluid retention, and polarized light microscopy (PLM) to examine surface structure and cell integrity using microscopy cross-sections. Successful results produced a new form of treated bacterial cellulose that is water-resistant and exhibited an increase in flexibility and tensile strength. This treated cellulose, similar to latex in texture and tensile behavior, may offer applications within textile arts, art conservation, and biomedical fields.

Julia Campbell-Such

The Totem Pole at Belle Park in Kingston, Ontario was carved and painted in 1973 by members of the Native Brotherhood at Joyceville Institution and given to the city of Kingston on the 300th anniversary of colonial settlement in the area. Native Brotherhoods were inmate-run, grass-roots organizations formed to address the social, political, economic and cultural problems that have led to the incarceration of disproportionate numbers of indigenous people in the Canadian prison system. One focus of their activism was the revival of indigenous cultural and artistic traditions. The Belle Park pole is an important historical monument to the early days of this movement, as well as an important record of the history of Indigenous-settler relationships in the region. This project is a technical analysis of this monumental outdoor wooden sculpture, informed by ethical considerations surrounding the conservation of Indigenous art. Investigations centered on identification of the materials used to construct the pole and the extent of their degradation, but also considered intangible characteristics of the artwork. Archival research and community consultations allowed the research to contextualize this sculpture and spark discussions between the Indigenous community and the City of Kingston regarding the significance of the work. An analysis of the structural stability of the pole was conducted using the resistograph instrument. Analysis of paint samples was conducted using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Microscopic analysis of wood samples was used to identify the species of wood used and characterize deterioration of the surface. The objective of this analysis was to provide the City of Kingston with data to inform any future conservation work on the pole, and to collaborate with the Kingston Indigenous community to advocate for the preservation of this monument.

Sarah Duffy

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC) is home to three photo-transfer prints created by the Montreal-based artist Wendy Simon (1946-2002). These works of art on paper are titled; Pear Around, an oversized blue-coloured print with red crayon additions; Audeladesfemmes 1, a black and white print with layered papers and; etude en trois ecorces, a composite, tri-coloured print. A combination of documentary, observational and analytical techniques have been used to form a technical analysis of these three works for the purpose of identification and to gain insight into Simon’s process. An additional 22 works from the AEAC collection were selected and documented to form a reference collection for comparison and identification. The Simon works have been photographed using reflected light, raking light, UV illumination and infrared photography, with associated condition reports produced to inform their formation. Sampling and analysis of paper and adhesive samples has also been conducted to identify paper types and the adhesive tapes used. These methods positively identified Pear Around as a cyanotype, Audeladesfemmes 1 as a photo-transfer etching, and etude en trois ecorces as a chine collé print. Condition issue have been highlighted and reported to the AEAC for their consideration.

Poster of Brendan Finney's student researchBrendan Finney

The substitution of toxic, volatile organic solvents for ionic liquids may hold several advantages for practising conservators, as ionic liquids like 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium ethyl sulfate are practically non-volatile, completely non-toxic, and non-irritating. In 2013, Pacheco et al. published their results on the first use of ionic liquids as alternatives for organic solvents in the removal of varnish from painted surfaces. The results showed promise, but several time-consuming applications of prohibitively expensive ionic liquids were necessary to remove test coatings. More recent research on the properties of ionic liquids as solvents suggested that binary mixtures of ionic liquids and organic solvents may prove more effective at solvating these coatings than ionic liquids alone, while only using a fractional proportion of ionic liquid. By combining the well-known properties of isopropanol with the ionic liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium ethyl sulfate, new low-toxicity solvent mixtures may be formed that mimic the qualities of so-called ‘stronger,’ and often noxious, organic solvents. Mixtures of isopropanol and 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium ethyl sulfate were first characterized by spectroscopic determination of Kamlet-Taft (KAT) parameters. Solvent mixtures were then tested on naturally aged varnish sample boards made at the Canadian Conservation Institute in 1994 and several historical works in the Queen’s Masters of Art Conservation study collection. Clearance testing was undertaken with Rhodamine 123. Results suggest that this binary mixture is not effective, and that ionic liquids should be used with caution on paint surfaces due to clearance issues.

Poster of Marissa Monette's student research, 2018Marissa Monette

Conservators and related professionals in the field of cultural heritage are collaborating with specialists in computer science and geography to advance the application of imaging techniques in cultural heritage that enable a greater understanding of materials, original use, and construction of artifacts. This research project focuses on applying techniques from these interdisciplinary collaborations in the context of object conservation by using 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional imaging techniques to analyze a Third Intermediate White Type Egyptian coffin lid dating from the 25th Dynasty (8th-7th century BCE). The primary goal is to integrate the enhanced internal structural information from computed tomographic (CT) scanning and surface topographical information gained from photogrammetry using the open source software CHER-Ob (Cultural Heritage Object), developed by Yale University's Computer Graphics Group. The intention behind the standardization of a digital workflow for the integration and preservation of the digital models, specifically the head model is to produce a usable workflow from this project for the remaining seventeen fragments of this Egyptian White Type coffin lid. The integrated models in CHER-Ob, combined with the results from previous analytical studies of the coffin lid fragments, offers a template of integrated photogrammetry and CT data in the visual sense only. This improves upon the accessibility of using this data for condition mapping for conservation and treatment reports.  The information gleaned from the integration of the digital models with CHER-Ob relates to the limitations of open source software within the cultural heritage sector operating as a single entity. 

Valerie Moscato

The arrival of three paintings by Canadian artist Graham Coughtry (1931-1999) at the Queen’s University Master of Art Conservation program prompted this investigation into the artist’s practice. The paintings, which date from the 1950s and early 60s, were created in a period of Canadian art marked by a rebellion against figurative modes of representation and the integration of new, commercially developed painting materials. Coughtry, who is known for his reconciliation of the human figure with the period’s demand for abstraction, participated in the exploration of new paint media by combining traditional oil paints and Lucite 44, a poly(n-butyl methacrylate) resin. By characterizing the artist’s use of these binding media within the three paintings, this project seeks to better understand Coughtry’s working methods and contribute to the larger narrative of experimental paint use in Canada during the 1950s and 60s. Each painting underwent non-destructive examination documented via photography in visible reflected light, raking light, ultraviolet-induced fluorescence (UVF), and infrared reflectography (IR). Minimally invasive analysis of paint samples from each painting was performed first by plane polarized light microscopy (PLM) and ultraviolet microscopy (UVM) to understand the paintings’ layering structures, while analysis via Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was performed to characterize the binding media. A method for determining a relative concentration of the constituent binders in the paint media was designed by comparing the spectra of prepared test films combining linseed oil and Lucite 44 in known concentrations to the spectra of paint samples with perceived Lucite 44 application. This analysis is contextualized by archival research of materials from the artist’s estate, informal interviews with members of the artist’s network, and FTIR analysis of Coughtry’s paintings with known Lucite 44 application from the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in partnership with the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI). While this research helped to inform the paintings’ conservation treatments by characterizing the materials present, the project could be beneficial for the broader understanding and care of Canadian artworks from this period. 

Lauren Nadine Osmond

In the mid-nineteenth century, iridescent Jewel beetle elytra were used to adorn textiles being produced in India, specifically for British export. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) owns many of these luxurious objects in their South Asia collections and continues to acquire such objects. During the conservation treatment of a nineteenth-century beetle elytra skirt panel (4411(IS)) at the V&A, it was observed that the colour of the elytra had shifted from a vibrant green to blue-violet where the elytra had been exposed to light, likely while being on display for decades after it was acquired in 1858. Many loose elytra from the textile had distinct stripes across the surface where embroidery thread had blocked the light. The iridescence and colour in this type of beetle, Buprestidae Julodinae Sternocera aequisignata, is structurally produced by many layers of chitin-protein fibres, meaning that this change in colour is the result of a structural change in the elytron microstructure. To inquire into this phenomenon, experiments were completed to replicate the colour shift. Modern beetle elytra of the same species were sourced and artificially aged by subjecting them to high exposure of light, temperature and relative humidity. These elytra were examined before and after aging using confocal microscopy to observe and measure the changes in the layering structure of the elytra. A preliminary survey of the beetle embellished textiles found in the V&A’s South Asia collection was also incorporated into this research project in an effort to provide insight into other contributing factors to this colour change, and also to provide guidance in future conservation treatments and methods of storage and display.  

Poster for Colette Hardman-Peavy's student researchColette Hardman-Peavy

Aqueous immersion is sometimes used to clean badly degraded albumen photographs. Previous research has shown that the introduction of moisture causes an increase of cracking within the albumen layer of the photograph, and can result in a decrease in gloss and change in surface texture. Gellan gum, increasingly used as a cleaning method by paper conservators may be a more controlled alternative to aqueous cleaning treatments, such as immersion. This project studies the physical effects that gellan gum has on albumen prints, focusing specifically on the cracking within the albumen layer.  Increase in crack size, number of cracks, surface gloss, and change in surface texture were measured prior to the use of the gel, as well as afterwards. The gellan gum was analyzed using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to look for evidence of albumen and gelatin proteins. The results were compared to one another to determine which gel may be most effective for this treatment.  Gloss measurements were examined in an effort to determine if treatment with gellan gum was less detrimental than aqueous immersion.  Results of the study were mixed, but crack length, width, and number increased in all cases and gloss decreased.  This study should be seen as a preliminary investigation into gellan gum, and more study is needed to determine whether it is a viable cleaning option for albumen photographs.

Poster for Paige Van Tassel's student research, 2018Paige Van Tassel

The purpose of this project was to use non-destructive and minimally invasive methods of analysis to characterize the materials used in production of the lithic pieces in a collection at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre donated by Archibald E. Malloch (1844-1919). The aim of this project is to create a methodical approach to studying these archeological objects and the possible eventual re-housing of these objects to the source community. This project examines the lithic collection with several instrumental techniques such as a stereomicroscope for surface analysis, X ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy and polarized light microscopy (PLM). This project has contributed to the understanding of the lithic pieces in the Agnes collection and allow other scholars to further research the pieces. The aim of this project was to aid other scholars in their art historical, archaeological, and anthropological research in the provenance and techniques used in the production of ground stone tools.  The results of this research project have allowed the Agnes Etherington Art Centre to publish the photos on their website to be accessible to a large audience who is interested in ground stone technology and production. The XRF and PLM results can be used by other scholars to further analyze semi-qualitative date from the XRF results and definitive material stone types from the PLM results.


Camille Beaudoin student researchCamille Beaudoin

This research project was performed in collaboration with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. These two galleries are working on an upcoming exhibition, which will include two paintings signed with the initials T.T. There is no confirmed attribution for either painting and it is unclear whether these initials were signed by the artist Tom Thomson. This research project focused on technical analysis methods applied to these two sketches, including normal light photography, ultraviolet examination, infrared reflectography (IRR), X-ray photographic examination, and X-ray fluorescence analysis. The equipment used for infrared reflectography and x-radiography belongs to QU-MoLTAH, a mobile laboratory for technical art history run by Professor Ron Spronk at Queen’s University. Scientific examination including micro-sampling, with the agreement of the owners, and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), were performed to obtain more information about the paint and the technique of the artists. It was essential to compare the results with the related work published by researchers at the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI). Other published literature regarding the materials used by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven were used as sources of information for this research project. In conclusion, this research provided information about the materials and techniques of the two paintings, which in some cases corresponded to the information collected by CCI about Thomson’s material and technique. Other results did not correspond completely with CCI’s results on other paintings; however, further analyses are necessary, including the identification of supports. 

Eliza D. Contrerars Cigales student researchEliza D. Contreras Cigales

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is steward to the Heritage Quilt Collection, consisting of over 44 textile objects. The Agnes has limited information on the material composition of these quilts and their historical antecedents. This research project involves the technical analysis of the major textiles components of a quilt bearing a log cabin pattern. This project principally looks at the red hearth fabrics, the verso cloth and the batting material that make up the quilt. Information gathered includes the weave structure of the textiles, fibre characterization, and dye and finishes identification. For these purposes, analytical techniques used were optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) to carry out fibre characterization. Gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) completed the analysis of dyes and finishes. The information gathered and material produced, such as mounted samples and sample spectra, expand the existing material characterization libraries of the Master of Art Conservation Program at Queen’s University. The technical analysis of this quilt is supported by the examination of its manufacturing methods and the analysis of its raw materials, which in turn allow for future research that focuses on questions of origin and dating. Finally, robust technical analysis of the quilt informs conservation issues stemming from the object’s current condition and future use, such as differential fabric degradation and preservation and exhibition protocols. 

Emilie Demers student researchEmilie Demers

Since the invention of printing, information dissemination has increased importantly; books have historical importance both in the written word and the materials used for their construction. Bookbinding can give great insight in the bookbinder’s skills, the time period and common practices, the geographical location, the socio-economic situation and many more factors. Looking at the increasing number of books in need of conservation, many techniques have been developed in the last few decades. Knowing the number of books only keeps growing indicates a long future for book conservation and the need for research looking for alternative solutions. In order to accommodate the ever growing demand, such solutions have explored how to create strong and stable repairs which do not require the use of leather. The workmanship of leather preparation is important in the transmission of knowledge. These skills allow for a better comprehension of the materials and how they behave under various conditions through bookbinding, crucial in book conservation. Although the art of bookbinding and leather preparation are important and still considered in conservation, other options include the use of Japanese paper. These options prove to be cost effective and time efficient. Japanese paper is a material commonly found in a great number of labs and has many conservation qualities. During treatment, it may be coated or come in contact with various materials. For the purpose of this research, a selection of three materials were tested on Japanese paper toned with acrylic paint: Cellugel, SC6000, and PVAC. The object of this project is to observe how these materials affect the physical strength of Japanese paper by performing a fold endurance test. In order to observe the viability of such solutions through time, two thirds of the samples underwent accelerated aging. The results from the fold endurance testing show that all the samples decrease in strength after two rounds of aging although the Toned Japanese paper coated with Cellugel and SC6000 had close to the same strength as the unaged sample. Other surprising results were after one round of aging where the Toned Japanese paper increased in strength, as opposed to all the other samples. The Toned Japanese with Cellugel and the Toned Japanese paper with Cellugel, SC6000 and PVAC both decreased drastically. The former after a second round of aging, while the latter after the first round of aging.

Sara Greenaway student researchSara Greenaway

Ammonium citrate has recently started being used by some conservators on iron gall ink documents although the long-term effect of ammonium citrate on iron gall ink is currently unknown. The goal of this research project was to determine whether ammonium citrate has no effect, acts as a chelator or has a negative effect on iron gall ink. The research project had manufactured, artificially aged samples, and historical document samples. The manufactured samples were composed of drops of iron gall ink on Whatman no. 1 filter paper. An untreated control was compared against alkaline-water-treated samples, 0.5% w/v ammonium-citrate-treated samples, 1.0% w/v ammonium-citrate-treated samples and 2% w/v ammonium-citrate-treated samples. Each percentage of ammonium citrate was applied at both pH 7.5 and pH 8.5. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, pH measurements, bathophenanthroline tests and spectrophotometric measurements were performed on each sample before and after treatment. In general, the pH of the manufactured samples increased slightly while the pH of the Italian historical document samples decreased slightly. No major trends were observed for the French historical document samples. Overall, the majority of the samples tested positive for iron ions before treatment and negative for iron ions after treatment. It is uncertain whether the removed iron ions are soluble acidic compounds, the iron gall ink itself, or both. The removal of these metallic compounds caused many of the samples to darken (a decrease in ΔL*), redden (an increase in Δa*) and yellow (an increase in Δb)* in the manufactured samples while no trends were observed in the French and Italian historical document samples. Only a small percentage of samples showed a significant colour change visible to the naked eye in the overall colour difference, ΔE*ab, of iron gall ink which could indicate that ammonium citrate treatments do not destroy the iron gall ink complex. This preliminary research project is only a first step in determining whether ammonium citrate immersions should be used on iron gall ink documents. Further research is required.

Almee Hawker student researchAImee Hawker

This project was fulfilled in partnership with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. At the gallery there is a painting with an unconfirmed attribution, which could benefit from further study. The artwork consists of a pair of wood panels painted with oil medium, one panel depicts the Virgin and the other comprises the background; the Virgin panel is inserted into the larger background panel. These paintings have a tentative attribution to Hendrick ter Brugghen and are approximately dated to 1621 for the figure and 1629 for the other compositional elements. This project used analytical methods in order to provide insight into the materials and techniques of the artist. The imaging techniques consisted of ultraviolet radiation and infrared light to provide evidence, such as, the composition of pigment and underlying layers. The analytical methods include x-ray fluorescence (XRF), x-radiography, scanning electron microscopy / energy dispersive x-radiography spectroscopy and gas chromatography – mass spectroscopy. These paintings could also benefit from examination of the wood, either using dendrochronology or identification of the species, for dating evidence. By completing this project the gallery gains valuable insight into the potential pigment and material composition, construction and structure of the artwork, which can lead in the future to increased confidence in attribution. 

Chloe Houseman student researchChloe Houseman

Unlike other types paper-based of collections, there has been no published attempt to characterize optimum storage conditions for comic books. Considering the inherent vice present in this type of collection (i.e. poor paper quality, rusty staples, etc.) as well as the fact that many large collections of this type are privately owned, good storage is imperative. This research seeks to analyze two types of plastic comic storage sleeves, both when new, and after being aged with historic comic samples. This accelerated aging provided insight into how these bags may degrade, including: color change, physical deformation, and media transfer. Additionally, the experiment sought to determine if a plastic sleeve is an appropriate storage method for older, or otherwise more degraded, comics. The comics were also examined both pre- and post-aging. This study found that polyester bags hold their shape, but are more likely to have ink transfer from the comic books, but polypropylene bags cockle and discolor with minimal ink transfer. This analysis gives private comic collectors especially some insight in selecting the most appropriate storage solution for their collection. 

Poster for Victoria Kablys' student research, 2017Victoria Kablys

The Master of Art Conservation (MAC) program at Queen’s University recently acquired three Egyptian coffins dating to the Third-Intermediate Period (c.1076–c.723 BC). While preliminary analysis was conducted by students in the MAC program to identify the pigments and layering structure of the coffins’ painted elements, both the types of wood and the construction techniques used in their manufacture remained unexplored. This research project focused on identifying and analyzing the wooden component and layering structure of the MAC program’s 25th Dynasty ‘white’ coffin (AA2190.A) using non-destructive and micro-destructive analytical techniques including: polarizing light microscopy (PLM), portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and clinical and micro- computed tomography (CT) imaging. This research served as a pilot project in establishing a framework by which to address the program’s two remaining coffins, while exploring the application of a variety of analytical techniques through multi-disciplinary and collaborative research.  Non-invasive/non-destructive and micro-destructive analytical techniques allowed for the successful characterization of white coffin’s materials, inner structure and method of construction, layering structure, and condition. The results of this research include the identification of the pigments, fibers, and ground layers; the exploration and elucidation of the spline and dowel construction system; the preliminary characterization of the layering structure of the coffin’s preparatory and decorative elements; and the documentation of areas of damage, loss and vulnerability. Information gathered from this study was instrumental in the characterization of the white coffin and its state of preservation, and in contributing information that will guide conservators in establishing the parameters of its conservation treatment.  

Marie Eve Gaudreau Lamarre student researchMarie Éve Gaudreau Lamarre

The purpose of this study is to determine what is causing media-related condition issues, such as offsetting or haloing, observed with some Inuit prints at the Canadian Museum of History (CMH). The media, support, printing technique and environmental conditions were studied as potential causes. A survey of CMH’s prints, supported by a comparison with prints exhibited or stored in other institutions such as the Winnipeg Art Gallery, looked at storage conditions and display history to determine if any issues are caused by environmental conditions. In addition, archival research offered more insight on techniques and specific products used. It was determined that feathering is not a significant issue, that strikethrough is a normal characteristic of stonecuts printed on Eastern papers, and that haloing is mostly only affecting the first few editions of engravings. Offsetting of the oil binder, by far the most common issue, is presumably caused by inherent vice in the ink; however, the location of the offsetting appears to be influenced by the paper substrate and the storage material in direct contact with the prints. Finally, localized discolouration found on some stonecuts from the late 1970s is suspected to be the result of combined offsetting from several prints catalyzed by past storage conditions. This research project has been conducted as part of an ongoing project at the CMH that aims to characterize materials used to create Inuit prints. The project aimed not only to broaden curators’ and conservators’ knowledge of this traditional and contemporary artistic process but also aimed to benefit Inuit artists and printmakers.

Mikaela Marchuk student researchMikaela Marchuk

The Diniacopolous Collection is a vast collection of ancient art that can be found exhibited in major international institutions, such as the British Museum. Interest in Queen’s collection of Diniacopolous coins was recently rekindled after the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU) held a 2015 conference, “Digitizing Matariki University Museum Coin Collections”. As a founding member of the MNU, Queen’s University fulfilled the objectives outlined by this conference by examining eleven predominantly cupreous coins from the Diniacopolous Collection. Particularly, this study looked for evidence of past treatments (specifically, coatings and sodium-containing compounds) that were commonly applied to coins. Analytical techniques used in this study included X-ray fluorescence (XRF), Fourier transfer infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and scanning electron microscopy energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS).  While XRF and SEM-EDS analysis revealed little information about the treatment histories of the coins, FTIR confirmed that yellow shellac and paraffin wax are present on the surfaces of some specimens in Queen’s possession. Results assisted the University in future efforts to conserve, research and care for similar objects by informing recommendations for future conservation treatments and ongoing preventive care.

Christina G.A. McLean student researchChristina G.A. McLean

The basis of this study was to investigate aqueous immersion washing techniques on colour-field painting samples. Colour-field painting emerged as a sub-set of the abstract expressionist movement where artists emptied their work of recognizable form and painted large areas of flat, single colour instead. Colour-field artists often selected acrylic resin or emulsion paints and applied them to raw unprimed cotton canvas. The distinctive techniques of colourfield painting present a unique sub-set of conservation issues not seen with traditional easel paintings. The atypical nature of the works has led to the development of divergent treatment strategies. Aqueous immersion emerged as a treatment option that stemmed from textile conservation practise of the 20th century. Despite being a potential solution for colour-field paintings, this technique still proves to be unpopular due to the shift in conservation ethics. By applying our modern understanding of the effects of aqueous treatments and utilizing current technologies, including both acrylic-safe surfactants and pH- and conductivity-adjusted water, this study investigated whether immersive techniques might be reconsidered in specific circumstances. The experimental data was obtained from polarized light microscopy (PLM), environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), and colour and gloss measurements. These analytical techniques were used to holistically evaluate the effects that immersive treatments, with pH- and conductivity-adjusted water, have on the morphology of Bocours Magna acrylic resin paints. Bocours Magna acrylic paints were selected due to their chemical divergence and popularity amongst the colour-field artists. This investigation sought to answer two questions: 1) to what extent immersion washing can lead to the leaching of soluble components from acrylic resin paints; and 2) what morphological changes occur with immersive cleaning. The results of all testing scenarios indicated little significant morphological change with aqueous immersion. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) revealed leaching of more soluble components in uncontrolled distilled water, which would indicate the need for pH- and conductivity-adjusted water as well as acrylic-safe surfactants.