Case Studies Using Advanced Art Conservation Methods

Art conservators the world over use an array of advanced imaging techniques on works of art to assemble information that can't be viewed by the naked eye. One popular option now being employed is producing fluorescence with an ultraviolet A light - which is the type of ultraviolet light with the longest wavelength.

UVA light not only generates stunning visual effects, it may also give valuable insight in an art's innate structure, historic background, and more. Our conservation department was encouraged by various well-known and respected arts conservators to host a workshop dedicated to making the UVA radiation methods easier to understand and more user-friendly so this valuable technology can continue to spread to other museums.

Many natural materials produce fluorescence when exposed to radiation from UVA light. The color and intensity of the fluorescence can range quite a bit. This helps conservators more easily distinguish the substances used in different artworks.

UVA radiation can raise the visibility of coatings and previous repairs. The method also can help differentiate pigments used by artists and supply key information about past light exposure, which in turn provides clues about where the art came from and where it has been.

UV-visible pigments are also used as a technological security measure in items such as passports, driver's licenses, and other identification documents. These pigments function as important security features because they are not easy to counterfeit and can reveal manipulation of important information immediately.

Our workshop focused on using the newest Target-UV tool to assist conservation teams in capturing accurate records of UV-visible fluorescence. This accuracy allows the images to be meaningfully compared, understood, and re-created by other conservation professionals: a previously unattainable target because of the nature of UV-visible fluorescence and differences in approach and equipment.

Fortunately, our collection of photos provided significant feedback for the development of this tool, which is now being more widely adopted by other museums around the world.