Filling the Gaps in heritage science research #4 Understanding material behaviour of modern materials used in movable items

Our quest to ‘Fill the Gaps’ in knowledge and practice identified in the research underpinning the National Heritage Science Strategy moves to modern materials used in movable items.

The National Heritage Science Strategy evidence report singled out modern materials as a specific sub-theme to reflect the relative lack of current understanding and research, the inherent instability of many early synthetic materials and rapid rate of deterioration, and limited number of specialists.

Particular areas of priority, for movable items (including plastics, foams, photographs, magnetic tape), are:

  • defining appropriate storage conditions
  • understanding the impacts of different cleaning regimes and improved methods of cleaning
  • investigation of new treatment methods and assessment of their long term impacts
  • standardisation of methods of condition assessment (ways to record extent and rate of deterioration) for plastics
  • improved monitoring of degradation
  • a lack of equipment/ access to equipment for identification of plastics
  • a need for better understanding of the future management and storage requirements of contemporary art, created using mixed media and non-artists materials
  • a suitable and safely removed varnish for acrylic paintings
  • methods of storage and improved understanding of the long-term stability of photographs, slides, negatives and cine film
  • the preservation of audio visual material including digital media
  • non-damaging recovery/playback methods for degraded audio visual media
  • defining ideal storage conditions for architectural drawing film
  • the conservation and long-term management of acetate and other heat set document laminates

Please add your knowledge of research that addresses any of these areas against the relevant heading to our survey. It can be published or unpublished research, completed or underway. Our only criteria is that the project started in or after 2009. You can complete the survey multiple times to add more than one piece of information against the same research area.

Many thanks for your help

National Heritage Science Forum

The ‘Filling the Gaps’ themes are:

Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of movable items  (links to survey)
Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of built historic environment (links to survey)
Understanding decay mechanisms and rates of decay of archaeology (links to survey)
Understanding the material behaviour of modern materials (movable items)
Understanding the material behaviour of modern materials (built historic environment)
Creating appropriate environments
Adapting to climate change
Improving practice in the assessment and monitoring of state
Improving practice: past present and future conservation treatments
Increasing access to tools and knowledge


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