Separative Methods Applied to Cultural Property

The physicochemical characterization of materials used in artworks is a wide field of investigation and, in the same time, an area of growing interest in the domain of conservation sciences. Moreover, the practice of conservation of works of art is more and more concerned by the physicochemical characterization of the materials used to help in the understanding of their past chemical evolution and in foreseeing their possible future chemical evolution.
The study of cultural heritage materials because of their diversity and their interaction with their environment is a real scientific challenge. The interdisciplinarity and the multidisciplinarity of questions form a fertile field where the methodologies, techniques analysis and views expressed in each specific scientific field can be optimized, and finally applied with inventiveness.
The objective of this thematic action: " Separative methods applied to cultural property  ", is to help at developing experiences that will answer the questions posed by the preservation of cultural heritage, while introducing analytical strategies using new tools in mass spectrometry.



The first topic relates to the characterization of chemical markers of origin for historic Asian papers by mass spectrometry. Its originality lies in targeting molecules of specific and geographic origins employed in the making of Asian papers, which are manufactured using traditional techniques generally poorly documented.
This research topic aims at introducing a new analytical approach to identify ancient Asian papers through the recognition of specific fingerprints by two-dimensional gas chromatography, Py/GC/MS and the characterization of specific markers by coupling liquid chromatography- high resolution mass spectrometry.

A second issue concerns the characterization of metabolites markers of contamination of strains of fungi present in historical papers.
The relevance of this approach is based on the detection of fungal activity at the beginnings of its development in making the assumption that the detection of trace of metabolic activity will be preferable to that of fungal activity (visible to the eye) that in fact corresponds already to a significant state of degradation.
To illustrate this strategy, it is known that, in some cases, microbial volatile organic compounds diffuse more easily than the spores, which then facilitates their detection: these volatiles are thus good indicators of mold growth. Early detection of such markers of contamination in confined atmospheres such as places of storage may provide an effective diagnostic tool to prevent widespread contamination.
Protocols for the detection of chemical markers of contamination of fungal strains will be organized around the characterization of microbial organic compounds by GC/MS, two-dimensional gas chromatography/mass spectrometry GCxGC/MS and liquid chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry LC/MS.

In the field of conservation sciences, there is a great potential value to wait from the development of new methods for rapid screening that can provide reliable qualitative or quantitative information on the presence of chemical markers of contamination or degradation. For this reason, another research topic focuses on the potential offered by new methods of  ionization at atmospheric pressure (desorption - electrospray ionisation DESI for the analysis of samples without solvent extraction and with a minimum preparation of the samples to be analyzed.

Case studies

This cross-thematic action "Separative methods applied to cultural property" while developing his own subjects can be applied for the development of new methodologies dedicated to the study and analysis of heritage assets museum collections, archives or historical monuments, including the identification of complex organic mixtures and their associated materials to assess their state of degradation.

In partnership with the Archeozoology and Archeobotany research unit and the Communication Molecules and Adaptation of Micro-organisms-MCAM research unit (Sophie CERSOY, Labex BCDiv), Py-GCxGC/MS was utilized to develop a new protocol for the preparation of the bone samples for radiocarbon dating using less than 100 mg using new generation acceleration mass spectrometers (AMS) equipment (project "Optimization of Micro-Sample Preparation Protocols for Dating RAdiocarbone Remains osteological ").

Within the framework of the European program IPERION, a study was also undertaken to study the production technology of encaustic waxes whose compositions may change over time and to examine to what extent these differences in composition could be masked by the effects of aging.

The team