Scientific conservation of materials in art and cultural objects can provide crucial answers relating to questions of artistic techniques. At the same time, it draws attention to age-related changes in the objects and possible ways of conserving them. Both aspects are becoming increasingly important in Conservation and Restauration. The umbrella term archaeometry denotes a similar approach, which deals provides interesting details relating to the materiality, make, origin and age of archaeological finds, facilitating insights into the social and economic conditions of past epochs.
The history of materials science at the University of Applied Arts
As one of the first facilities of this kind in Europe, a chemical laboratory was already established at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts located at Stubenring (which subsequently became thes University of Applied Arts). Initially, the laboratory was exclusively used for the technical support of artists and for the implementation of research contracts with the industry.
Archaeometry in the sense of a cooperation between the natural sciences and archaeology, however, only became part of the university in the year 1988, after the chemical laboratory at the Royal Museum for Ethnology in Berlin had taken essential steps in this direction.
Over the years, the laboratory underwent a number of reorientations and renamings, with the study content at the University changing frequently. Since the early 1980s, topics relating to materials science in Conservation and Restauration as well as archaeometry have been the main focus of this department. Since 2017, these activities are undertaken within the scope of the department "Natural Sciences in Conservation" at the Institute of Science and Technology.
As a centre of cometence for the interdisciplinary space that arises from the intersection of cultural heritage conservation and archaeology with materials science, we are concerned with the corrosion and conservability of artefacts as well as with their compotition, age, authenticity, and provenance. Our points of focus are mineral, textile, and metal materials: we use these for conservation-related and archaeometric research, which is then incorporated into the teaching of students at the department of Conservation and Restoration.
Today, thanks to our equipment, we primarily conduct material microscopy in the field of mineral materials, analysing antique and historical objects made of stone, mortar, plaster, mural painting, and ceramics. Through our longstanding research in the context of EU projects, we have established ourselves as a first-class European centre of competence. In the context of research and teaching, a number of PhD theses deal with central topics of our current projects.
In the field of textiles, our focus is on the analysis of dyed archaeological and historical textiles. Our recent research projects, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the European Union, dealt with archaeological textiles from Hallstatt and from regions outside of Europe, as well as late-antique textiles from Egypt. Dye analysis is particularly important in this context.
We offer top-quality services especially in the following fields:
- Dating and authentication of ceramics with the help of thermoluminiscence
- Plaster and coating analysis of stone and architectural objects
- Salt analysis
- Composition and texture of metal objects
We work with our department's in-house optical and scanning electron microscope, which is complemented by a range of instrumental and laboratory procedures that are available at our department or at our cooperation partners.
- Optical microscope for transmitted light and reflected light
- Scanning electron microscope (SEM) with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX)
- Climatic Test Chamber (CTC)
- Sample preparation
- Wet chemical laboratory
- Ultrasonic testing
- Thermoluminescence equipment
Additional instrument-based options through our cooperation partners
- X-ray diffractometry
- Ion chromatography
Up-to-date information can be found at Base Angewandte.
Head of Department
Amtsrätin Sonja Orman (office)
AProf. Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Erlach
Mag. rer. nat. Leonhard Gruber
Wiss. Mitarb. Ing. Robert Kralofsky
Wiss. Mitarb.in Mag.a art. Elisabeth Mascha (on leave)
Wiss. Mitarb. MSc. Anthony Baragona (on leave)
Johanna Altenburger (on leave)
AProf.in Mag.a rer. nat. Dr.in phil. Regina Hofmann-de Keijzer (retired)