At Birkbeck the MSc Analytical Chemistry and MRes Chemical Research programmes include teaching of the Environmental Analytical Chemistry module. This module allows us to integrate practical projects with cultural heritage institutions. One of our current projects is with the Preventive Conservation team at English Heritage and this involves air quality monitoring in display and showcases. For these measurements we are using lead-based piezoelectric quartz crystals to monitor levels of corrosivity arising from volatile organic acids. These were developed and used in previous EU projects in which Birkbeck participated SENSORGAN (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/22695) and PROPAINT https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/44254 Figures 1 and 2 show current exposure of dosimeters at two English Heritage in a showcase at Ranger’s House and in a display case containing historical lead-based objects at Eltham Palace.
The values read from the dosimeters after exposure will provide an indication of whether the tested environment is suitable for the objects displayed or if some interventive measures need to be taken to improve the conditions.
Our interest in the safe preservation of cultural heritage has led to our involvement in the SafeCult project. For this project we have been actively compiling information on the activities in the UK on disaster and risk management in archives and libraries. We are in contact with The National Archives (Kew) and English Heritage about their disaster and risk planning. We have recently also made contact with Harwell Restoration in Didcot, UK (https://www.harwellrestoration.co.uk/priority-user-service/collections-care-services) who are responsible for the training courses in this area and familiarized ourselves with a valuable text on this topic (https://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/page/detail/emergency-planning-and-response-for-libraries-archives-and-museums/?k=9781856048088). Last September a course in rescue operation was conducted at the British library and another course is planned in February 2023 in Dublin (https://www.harwellrestoration.co.uk/priority-user-service/course) .
We have also identified some of the activities in the UK relating to support efforts for cultural heritage in Ukraine. The Institute of Conservation (Icon UK) have set up a series of Basecamp teams to co-ordinate support efforts by conservators, mainly in the UK, for Ukraine on material aid and emergency guidance https://www.icon.org.uk/resource/support-for-ukraine-conserving-cultural-heritage.html. Conservation Resources UK are working on a list to donate specialist products to conservation professionals in Ukraine. ICOM-UK have held lunchtime talks in support of Ukraine https://uk.icom.museum/icom-uk-talks-heritage-in-crisis-ukraine/ .