The lab is integrally linked to the conservation department and concentrates on collection-centred work. Focused on the gallery projects it has carried out the analysis of many objects and collections working with conservators of relevant sections. Most research centres on two issues. One line of inquiry supports conservation treatments by distinguishing between original work and alterations introduced by later restorers or by the ageing process. Another area of research furthers art-historical studies by tracing the artist's decision-making process.
Objects are studied with a variety of technical means, including close examination in visible and ultraviolet light often aided by stereo and digital microscopes, x-radiography and infrared reflectography. Chemical analysis may also be carried out on the surface of the objects or on minute samples, in order to collect information on the materials used, the layer structure involved and the technique. Such information is an aid to dating and attribution and will, to an extent, help us resolve issues regarding the conservation history, distinguish copies but most of all guide treatment decisions.
In-house techniques available to our team include micro X-ray fluorescence (XRF), visible and UV optical microscopy, and image reflectography up to 1700nm. A series of other analytical techniques are carried out in collaboration with external institutions either as part of joined research projects, or on commission.
This is a field where the need to seek and research comparative analytical material and data from other collections is vital in order to understand and interpret our own material. Similarly, access to our research results has many times proven useful to others. Their work will then contribute to our knowledge. In this respect dissemination of the results is an imperative part of the overall process and is pursued through collaborative projects, public presentations and publications.
The Science Lab also conducts material testing for long and short term exhibition and storage purposes; it carries out environmental monitoring measurements and advises on insect pest management and dust control issues.