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Winterthur’s SRAL also prepares objects for exhibition, affirming their authenticity and helping undo prior restorations.
As an example, Dr Mass notes that a Meissen tureen from the Campbell collection bore a decorative pattern from the 1730s.
The gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer identifies trace molecules thought previously to have disintegrated beyond recognition.
It can identify the presence of a specific organic material, such as dammar resin or linseed oil.
In conjunction with the University of Delaware, it is part of the art conservation department that awards master’s and doctoral level degrees in art conservation and preservation studies, in addition to the American material cultural program.
One of the best-equipped facilities in the country, Winterthur’s SRAL boasts an impressive array of equipment worth several million dollars: two x-ray fluorescence spectrometers, a scanning electron microscope with x-ray microanalysis capabilities, a Fourier transform infrared microspectrometer, a Raman microspectrometer, a liquid chromatograph mass spectrometer and a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer.
It is a serendipitous convergence in which science and art have met at Winterthur, Henry Francis du Pont’s Nineteenth Century country estate in the Brandywine Valley.
Back in the 1930s, du Pont’s family’s corporation, Du Pont, advertised itself with the slogan “Better Living Through Chemistry.” Around the same time, du Pont, collector and family scion, established the Winterthur Corporation, a nonprofit, educational organization based at his family’s home.
It is in this laboratory that chemistry, the goose that laid the golden Du Pont egg, comes full circle. X-ray fluorescence spectrometers (XRF) permit the noninvasive identification of the elemental components of pigments, metals, glass and ceramics and stone.She notes that a piece of furniture from about 1710‱720 can have 15 to 25 layers of surface.Study of Nineteenth Century weathervanes indicates that not all gilded objects were stripped to facilitate re-gilding.Today, the collections number some 90,000 objects in the museum and another 100,000-plus rare books and prints in the library.Such a vast collection requires care and conservation and the museum’s SRAL responds readily to those requirements.
They operate under the medical axiom, “First, do no harm.” The goal is minimal intervention.