This is heritage science…nanomaterials for the restoration of works of art


Our next feature for #BSW2016 comes from Dr Lora Angelova who introduces a 3.5 year-long project at Tate, which started in the summer of 2015, to research the potential use of materials developed within the nanotechnology sphere (science of EXTREMELY small things!) for the conservation of contemporary art.

The NANORESTART project is a research initiative involving a network of 27 partner institutions (universities, museums, private conservators and commercial companies). The aim of the project is to use novel materials developed within the nanotechnology sphere for the conservation and preservation of contemporary artworks. Such materials can be used for various aspects of heritage conservation, for example – surface cleaning (i.e. the removal of layers of dirt or grime, or degraded varnishes and coatings) using microemulsions tailored to the specific superficial layer to be removed, or consolidating artwork components that have become weakened over time, using nanoparticles.

NHSF _SW_photo
Image Tate 2016 (C) Keith Marlow Evaluating artworks that may benefit from the Nanorestart research project with the help of principle conservation scientist Bronwyn Ormsby and paintings conservator Annette King. Pictured here, Lora Angelova with the painting ‘River’ by Keith Milow (1997).


There are many different branches of research within the NANORESTART network project. At Tate, the work aims to test, investigate the potential applicability of, and understand the best methodology for use of a number of different types of cleaning systems (microemulsions, gels, enzymes, etc.) that might be helpful for the very difficult cleaning issues inherent in some contemporary artworks. The team will be focusing on artworks composed of synthetic polymer paints as well as on plastic objects, working closely with conservators to test and evaluate the effects of several new cleaning systems and compare them to the current methods conservators might employ to treat such materials. The project aims to add a significant amount of information to the current body of research on surface cleaning and advance the understanding of contemporary art practices and the best ways for treating and preserving these works of art.

The team at Tate includes Bronwyn Ormsby, Pip Laurenson and John McNeill, as well as selected conservators working at Tate with an expertise in plastics or painted surfaces.

To find out more about the project go to: and


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