Photo of paintings conservators analysing an icon with a FTIR spectrometer Paintings conservators analysing an icon with a portable XRF analyser

Artlab’s research program focuses on conservation methods’ development and the investigation of individual artworks and heritage objects.

We examine works of art in detail, utilising a range of scientific techniques to provide information on artists’ working methods and materials, the deterioration of particular materials, and the condition of individual works prior to conservation treatment.

Our investigations commonly use ultraviolet light examination, infrared imaging, x-ray imaging and microscopy. Analyses using our portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) analyser, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, FTIR microscope, and polarising and ultraviolet fluorescence microscope provide more specific information regarding material composition, such as pigment or binder analysis of paint.

Our research projects also address specific issues relating to conservation treatments. For example, if a deterioration problem arises with an artwork or heritage object that cannot be satisfactorily treated using established conservation methods or materials, our conservators will develop an innovative treatment methodology. The methodology and materials proposed will be tested to ensuring the best possible long term outcome.

We regularly collaborate with other conservators and scientists, interstate and internationally.

Our work is primarily funded by the South Australian Government through the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Additional funding is sought from grants and we have participated in a number of collaborative research projects funded by the Australian Research Council.