Cultural Heritage Aeriboiology and Art conservation (C) Daniel FriedmanBook Review for Aerobiologists - Cultural Heritage and Aerobiology, Methods and Measurement Techniques for Biodeterioration Monitoring
     


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Biodeterioration of artworks and cultural artifacts: diagnosis, remedy, prevention: how to investigate and diagnose various sources of biodeterioration which plague a wide variety of cultural artifacts and materials, as well as to address related human health concerns. Actually this application of aerobiology will be of particular interest to all aerobiologists as well as other investigators.

A New Guide to Art and Cultural Artifact Conservation

-- Daniel Friedman

Cultural Heritage and Aerobiology, Methods and Measurement Techniques for Biodeterioration Monitoring
[purchase at Amazon.com]
, Paolo Mandrioli, Guilia Caneva, and Cristina Sabbioni, Eds., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003 ISBN 1-4020-1622-0

Betty van Herk was kind enough to send along a review copy of this interesting new work which arrived as I was investigating fungal problems for a library which includes old books and magazines as well as oil paintings. I learned, for example, that the cracks you see in an oil painting could be caused by unfavorable microclimatic conditions at the back of the canvas, promoting the development of microfungi that penetrate the canvas can push off the paint. What causes erosion, spots, or opacification on glass and what different organisms cause patinas? What molds do the most damage to plastic? [Answers are below.]

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Cellulose attacks (C) Daniel FriedmanThis work should be in the hands of aerobiologists who may be called upon to investigate and diagnose various sources of biodeterioration which plague a wide variety of cultural artifacts and materials, as well as to address related human health concerns. Actually this application of aerobiology will be of particular interest to all aerobiologists as well as other investigators.

Our photo (left) shows a typical illustration from the text. In this example the authors discuss microorganisms such as Penicillium sp. fungus that attach starch (and cellulose)-based substances.

The book's 243 pages present a compendium of museum, library, and cultural artifact materials which can be damaged by biodeterioration. The text goes on to describe tools and methods used to evaluate, monitor, and avoid >biodeterioration of valued artifacts that form our cultural heritage.

The scope of materials affected by biodeterioration is broad, including among organics: paper, wood, textiles, parchment, leather, paintings (both ground layers and surface pigments), and plastics. The inorganic materials addressed include stone, glass, and metals, stored both indoors and outside.

After introducing the materials of concern, the editors provide an inventory of the basic environmental measurements such as temperature, air movement, and light, followed by a chapter on the chemical characteristics of common biodeteriogens, along with a look at gaseous and chemical pollutants.

About half of the main text addresses methods and measurement techniques for the monitoring of biological aerosols, defining the parameters an aerobiologist would consider: deposition, settling velocity, impact, etc. followed by sampling principles. A review of sampling equipment and techniques is followed by a description of sample analysis.

The remaining text offers specific advice to libraries, museums, archives, churches and people maintaining outdoor artifacts. Custodians charged with preserving the cultural heritage in their charge will find guidance on aerobiological monitoring of these artifacts and contents.

The book was fascinating and for me as a non-expert, as it offers a useful survey of the family of chemistry, transport mechanisms, monitoring devices and approaches, and biological deterioration effects of a wider range of living stuff than our more familiar mold spores: bacteria, actinomycetes, cyanobacteria, algae, lichens, and even higher plants and mosses as well as a wide range of other agents are discussed.

The strength of the book is its discussion of aerobiological principles of transport, chemistry, and biodeterioration, and it's emphasis on matching >monitoring and analytical methods to the chemical or biological agent being watched. It offers specific details needed to get from theory to practice.

The text is not comprehensive in advice on >selection of monitoring and sampling equipment. As a compendium which collects contributions from a variety of authors, there is often unevenness in depth across topics. Sections on monitoring equipment focus on sampling tools familiar to the authors and fitting certain analysis procedures (Anderson cascade sampler, Rotorod sampler, liquid impingers), while some current, convenient equipment are not discussed (Burkard personal air sampler, Air-O-Cell type cassettes, Gil-Air type portable, variable-flow-rate vacuum pumps). The reader should be able to translate the methodological advice to the world of alternative tools. Finally, the book's index is spartan and does not do justice to its contents. I found myself adding our own index entries as I read through the text.

Whether you're charged with monitoring and preserving artifacts or are specializing in another field of aerobiology, this is interesting and useful reading.

This book review appeared in the Pan American Aerobiology Association Newsletter, Spring 2004 - see www.paaa.org for access to past newsletters.

Daniel Friedman

Also see ARTWORK MOLD CONTAMINATION and BLOOD in ART WORKS, TESTING FOR

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