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Bernardus Swaerdecroon, 1646. Damage is visible in the vertical direction, where the three wooden panels are attached to one another. (Rijksmuseum inv. no. SK-A-828).
Large museums have climate systems to protect their objects from bending or cracking. These systems are set up for limited fluctuations in humidity, based on the assumption that larger variations are harmful. This assumption, however, has never been scientifically substantiated. The Rijksmuseum and the Cultural Heritage Agency therefore asked the technical universities to investigate this. Research by TU/e Ph.D. students Thomas Arends and Rianne Luimes has now indicated that greater fluctuations are acceptable. This could save a lot of energy and CO2. Arends and Luimes will obtain their doctorates at Eindhoven University of Technology on 12 and 17 September respectively.
Moisture - Danger - Objects - Wood - Moisture
Moisture presents a great danger to museum objects. Wood is particularly sensitive to this: even minimal moisture fluctuations cause the material to expand and contract repeatedly. If the internal forces become excessive, there is even a risk of cracking. Museum objects that suffer from this include, for example, oak panel paintings from before the 17th century or the doors of 17th century furniture such as cabinets.
In the case of panel paintings, any damage is often the result of differences in moisture permeability. The layers of paint on the front of the panel only allow moisture to slowly pass through. As a result, most of the moisture exchange occurs at the back of the panel. This uneven distribution of moisture causes the panel to bend. If the internal tension becomes too great, the paint layer or even the wood may crack. In the case of cabinet doors, the fiber orientation of the boards is the most critical factor. If the boards are glued together in different directions, the influence of moisture may cause one board to expand or contract...
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