July 10, 2018

Russia: Master class on preservation in Moscow

In February, a master class titled ‘Gel and Non-Invasive Preservation’ took place at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Knowledge exchange
The class was organised by the Tretyakov Gallery and SCI (Foundation for Cultural Inventory) in collaboration with SRAL (Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg) and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), with the support of the Dutch Embassy in Moscow. The aims were to improve the skills of conservators on the sustainable preservation of works of art, and to exchange knowledge by working together, incorporating Russian and Dutch best practices. Participants came from several museums in Moscow and the Hermitage and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Safe cleaning
The principle ideas of the master class were twofold: to safely clean layers of dirt from varnishes without disturbing the varnish by using buffered water pH-solutions, chelating agents or surfactants; and to clean varnishes from (oil) paint layers by using a reduced amount of solvent and solvents of lower polarity that can be left on the surface for longer. Both systems can be gelled to make the cleaning solution more viscous, so that the cleaning agent will not penetrate into the (original) substrate through capillary action. 

Greener methods
The chemical properties of the cleaning system are adapted to the material that the conservator wants to be removed. This requires knowledge of the materials used in paintings. The workshop also described methods to investigate the paintings prior to cleaning. Furthermore, the workshop touched on the new tendency to make the gel cleaning systems ‘greener’, i.e. using less solvents, and solvents with lower toxicity.