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Cabello, C. Preventive Conserv. Archaeological Wood Vasa Warship. 2011

Cabello, C. Preventive Conserv. Archaeological Wood Vasa Warship. 2011

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Cabello, C. Preventive Conserv. Archaeological Wood Vasa Warship. 2011
Cabello, C. Preventive Conserv. Archaeological Wood Vasa Warship. 2011

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Trinidad Pasíes Arqueología-Conservación on Mar 08, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/08/2011

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e
­
conservation
the online magazine No. 18, February 2011
 
A REFLECTION ON THE PREVENTIVECONSERVATION OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL WOODAND THE EFFECTS OF MASS TOURISM
The Case Study of the Vasa Warship
By Cristina Cabello‐Briones
 
Introduction
Tourismisandmustbeacceptableforanymuseum.However, large‐scale tourism has a direct nega‐tive effect on collections such as that of the VasaMuseum. Although it is clear that environmental conditionsaffectarchaeologicalwood,preventiveconservationofsuchcollectionshasnotbeenex‐tensively considered. Wooden shipwrecks havebeen studied from several perspectives mainly inresearch that refers to material degradation andnewtreatments.Themainobjectiveofthisarticleistoraisepublicawarenessofthistopicandhighlight the benefits of a well planned preventiveconservation strategy in order to safeguard ar‐chaeological wooden cultural artefacts. Beforeanalysing the example of the Vasa Museum, abrief description of the effects of environment and tourism on archaeological wood and an in‐troduction to preventive conservation manage‐ment are presented.
PreventiveConservationofArchaeologicalWood
Woodequilibrateswithitsenvironment.Ifthesur‐roundingconditions change, wood reacts to theabundance or absence of moisture in the air andwill expand or contract. Thomson [1] recommen‐ded 19‐24 °C and 45‐55% RH as ideal conditionsfor the museum environment housing unpaintedwoodenobjects.AtlowerRHvalues,woodcracks,becomesbrittleandshrinks.Above65%RH, moldgrowthispromotedandswellingincreases.Main‐taining the relative humidity between 50‐60%
reduces most of the visible damage. However, Mi
chalski[2]remindsusthat"thespecificationsfor
temperatureandhumidityinrelatedliteraturerep
resent 
the lowest common denominator amongst the needs of objects, and not necessarily the op‐timum for each". Each case needs to be analysedindividually and on many occasions this meanstesting the decisions in practice.Whenanobjectismechanicallystable,mostdam‐age is due to RH fluctuations. These can eventu‐allyleadtocracking,checkingandwarpingofthewooden artefact. In addition, fast changes in rel‐ative humidity cause internal stresses due to dif‐ferences of moisture between inner and outerareas[3,p.34].Therefore,anidealenvironmen
isachievedwhennocyclicvariationsoccur.Sligh
shiftsarepermittedifthechangeisslow,varyingat maximum over ±5% range [4, p. 269].Relating to temperature, every 10 °C increasedoubles the average rate of organic reactions [3,p. 40]. Therefore, lower temperature levels (15‐20 °C) slow these rates and offer a comfortableenvironment to visitors.Lightaffectswoodinseveralways.Themostseveredamagesareconnectedwithchemicalbondbreak‐age, free radical formation and the subsequent depolymerisation of polymers. In addition, wood
44
e‐conservation
Archaeological wood is an organic material, sensitive to environmental conditions. Wood, even whentreated with polyethylene glycols, adapts to the surrounding environment with physical and chemicalreactions that may be detrimental to its preservation. In addition, excessive tourism has a negativeeffect on the museum environment once its indoor conditions fluctuate directly with the number of visitors.In order to minimize the effects of a negative climate caused by mass tourism on archaeological wood collections, preventive conservation measures should be taken. To illustrate an effective preventiveconservation management, the case of the Vasa museum in Stockholm, which houses the 386 years old Vasa warship, is discussed.
CRISTINACABELLO‐BRIONES

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