Preservation of Cultural Heritage

From November 22 to 27, 2021, our member ARC-Nucleart, in collaboration with the IAEA,  hosted a workshop and meeting of experts in Grenoble, France on radiation technologies for cultural heritage preservation. The event attracted over 100 participants from Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean, who benefited from the 50 years of experience accumulated by Art-Nucleart. The Art-Nucleart website contains a wealth of information, pictures and videos on the restauration and research work carried out in Grenoble.

“Before the use of nuclear techniques in conservation and preservation, heritage objects often decayed due to biological attack, or corroded and withered with time, losing part of their cultural value,” said Laurent Cortella, Head of Facility Management and Research Engineer at ARC-Nucleart. “Over the last half a century, this problem has been mitigated through the use of gamma irradiation for conserving archaeological, historical and ethnographic cultural objects. We need to continue understanding how materials degraded and developing new treatment techniques so museums around the world are able to display invaluable pieces of art.”

Wooden objects, for instance, are often exposed to infestations of insects, fungi and algae, putting them in danger of structural weakness and degradation. The famous early 18th century statue of Saint Maurice, the Egyptian military leader who headed the legendary Theban Legion of Rome in the 3rd century, for instance, faced significant structural weaking. Restoration experts at ARC-Nucleart exposed the statue to gamma radiation to disinfect and consolidate it and help give back its original structure.

France’s ARC-Nucléart, a member of iia, has used gamma irradiation in its preservation activities since 1970. IAEA News – Nuclear Art and Artefact Preservation Celebrates 50 Years.

In 2017 publication, the IAEA published a book (IAEA Radiation Technologies Series n°6) on the Uses of Ionizing Radiation for Tangible Cultural Heritage Conservation. This book can be downloaded free here. A new IAEA publication on standard operating procedures should be published in 2022.

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