Objects of Cultural Heritage

Perhaps the greatest advantage offered by single-sided NMR is its ability to accommodate samples of arbitrary size. Priceless paintings, historical buildings, and famed musical instruments should not be invasively sampled, so they are not compatible with traditional NMR. In these cases, our magnets can accommodate these materials with ease and, when necessary, can travel to the object (e.g., historical buildings), rather than bringing the object to the lab.

Using single-sided magnets, we have shown that different techniques conservators use to clean the surface of paintings result in different levels of solvent ingress into the structure of the paint layers themselves. This information enables conservators to make a better-informed decision on the method for cleaning a painting.

Presently, we investigate the curing of two different types of paint—traditional oils and water-mixable oils—to characterize the physical properties of each. This project is partially driven by a desire to mitigate environmental concerns over the use of volatile solvents in cleaning traditional oil paints and is in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.).