Synchrotron radiation and neutrons in art and archaeology 2014

Loïc Bertrand ab, Philippe Dillmann c and Ina Reiche de
aIPANEMA, CNRS, ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, USR 3461, BP48 Saint-Aubin, F-91192 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
bSynchrotron SOLEIL, BP48 Saint-Aubin, F-91192 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
cLAPA, IRAMAT UMR5060 CNRS, NIMBE UMR3685 CEA/CNRS, CEA Saclay, F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France
dSorbonne Universités, Université Paris 06, LAMS UMR 8220 CNRS UPMC, 4 place Jussieu, F-75005 Paris, France
eRathgen-Forschungslabor, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Schlossstr. 1a, D-14059 Berlin, Germany

Received 4th February 2015 , Accepted 4th February 2015
The 6th edition of the international conference on Synchrotron radiation and neutrons in art and archaeology (SR2A 2014) was held from 9–12 September 2014 in the auditorium of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The conference was jointly organised by six research laboratories from CNRS, the French Ministry of Culture, CEA and MNHN – IPANEMA at Synchrotron SOLEIL, C2RMF, CRC, LAMS, LAPA, and LRMH – the MNHN Prehistory Department, the Louvre Museum and Fondation des Sciences du Patrimoine in close interaction with the SR2A International Committee. Nine years after the organisation of the first SR2A conference in Grenoble, the Louvre Museum offered its exceptional venue to host the biennial interdisciplinary meeting in central Paris.

The conference gathered the unprecedented number of 300 attendees, demonstrating once more the significant interest and increase in use of advanced imaging and spectroscopy techniques in the field. Attendees came from 22 different countries from Europe, North and South America, Asia and the Middle East. SR2A 2014 provided an exceptional opportunity to encourage cross-disciplinary exchanges between professionals from the distinct fields involved: scientists and experts from academic laboratories, large-scale facilities, museums, and conservation institutions. Almost 20% of the attendees were students.

Forty-one speakers presented contributions in four thematic sessions. In addition to “Conservation and alteration”, “New methods and analytical processes”, and “Processes and chaînes opératoires”, the impressive number of submissions dealing with research in palaeontology and palaeo-environments led the organising committee to devote a fourth session to the latter theme. Eighty-three posters were presented during the conference.

The 6th edition of the SR2A conference also led to a number of original events. An evening public session, advertised in the general programme of the Louvre, was offered to non-specialists, visitors and students to provide insights into the current research of U. Bergmann (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford, USA), R. van Langh (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and Ph. Sciau (CEMES CNRS, Toulouse, France). A temporary display of scientific books from the conference speakers on the conference theme was organised in the Louvre bookshop. On the last day, after the final address by M. Laplace, Ministry of Culture, the conference ended with study visits inside the Louvre Departments organised jointly by museum curators and researchers.

After an open discussion with all participants during the round table at the end of the conference, F. Vanmeert (Univ. of Antwerp, Belgium) was awarded the Young Researcher's prize from the SR2A International Committee, while R. Feng (Canadian Light Source, Canada) and T. Séverin-Fabiani (synchrotron SOLEIL, France) received prizes for the quality of their respective posters, with support from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

As noted for the previous editions of the conference, the extreme diversity of the materials and combination of materials encountered in museums, natural history collections, libraries, monuments and at archaeological sites is at the origin of the range of interdisciplinary topics dealt with during the conference, including the study of paints – from easel paintings to rock art – building materials, sculptures, ceramics, photographic materials, metals, glasses, enamels, ivories, inks, graphic documents, fossil specimens, mummies and archaeological human remains, fabrics, wood, polymers, and conservation materials, etc. The need for advanced spectroscopy and imaging methods arises from the constraints in characterising minor and trace elements or phases. An array of methods to consolidate results obtained from such complex materials is often required, particularly when considering the multiscalar heterogeneity and the mixed organic/inorganic character of the materials studied. Non- or micro-invasive imaging modalities were therefore a significant component in a majority of the works presented: from developments in fast X-ray scanning methods and instruments, neutron radiography and micro-computed tomography, to UV/visible photo-luminescence and FT-IR imaging.

The conference was the occasion to demonstrate the progress of very significant projects that have involved a long-term engagement of scientific and heritage institutions in the field, such as the study of painting methods and pigment alteration processes in works from illustrious painters – Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt – the conservation issues posed by sulfur accumulation in waterlogged woods and the multiscalar study of archaeological ceramic materials to identify their firing conditions. A series of emerging topics were presented and thoroughly discussed, including for instance novel approaches towards the virtual reading of manuscripts from micro-computed tomography, the study of ancient carbon-based inks, difficult chemical questions posed by the alteration and advanced imaging of fossil specimens, and the structural study at the mesoscale of adhesives used for conservation purposes.

Last but not least the complementarity of synchrotron- and neutron-based methods with laboratory approaches, in the framework of tailored and multistep methodologies, was emphasised in most of the papers presented during the congress, as well as in this special issue. This underlines that today, such methods are more and more integrated in global approaches regarding the study of heritage artefacts and materials, which appears to us as a sign of the maturity of such thriving scientific interaction.

This special issue gathers 24 contributions from poster or oral presentations during the SR2A 2014 conference. For their support during this event and the publication of the themed issues devoted to the SR2A conference series, we would like to thank the teams from Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry and Applied Physics A, who were also actively present in Paris. Merci!

We are looking forward to seeing many novel developments and applications of synchrotron and neutron methods in the framework of integrated research works in heritage sciences at the next SR2A conference scheduled for 2016 in Chicago, USA.

Reference of past proceedings

SR2A 2012: Applied physics A, 111(1), 2013.

SR2A 2010: Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 26, 2011.

SR2A 2006: Applied physics A, 90(1), 2008.

This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015