Conservation science - heritage materials

Conservation science - heritage materials 

Eric May and Mark Jones (Eds) 

Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry |2006 | 300pp | ?34.95 (HB) |ISBN 9780854046591 

 Reviewed by Lore Troalen

As a conservation scientist and former assistant lecturer to students studying for Bachelor of Conservation degrees, I found this book a useful tool for students, as it tackles the main materials they have to deal with during their training and professional life. The chemical and physical properties of materials and their degradation processes are discussed in great detail, but the text is still accessible to conservation students. 

All the materials developed in the various chapters could be the subject of separate individual books, so the real challenge was to manage to present the chemistry of each material and to link that to conservation practices in just a few pages. Some chapters do this particularly well. 

The more interesting chapters were the ones focusing on case studies. For example the textile case studies were very pertinent and clear. The chapter on glass and ceramics brings together particularly well the chemistry of glass, degradation processes, conservation practices and conditions of storage and display. 

The chapter on plastics is useful as there are few books on conservation science discussing such materials despite the fact that they represent a large part of the collections in museums and galleries and present very specific problems of degradation, storage, display etc.  

Some chapters were a little disappointing. For example only microbiological degradation of stone was developed in detail, with less discussion of other aspects of stone degradation. I was also disappointed that only mural paintings were presented, and I would like to have had a separate chapter on easel paintings, although the authors perhaps saw that as outside the scope of the book. 

Although I appreciated chapters on waterlogged wood and metal artefacts, particularly relating to the Mary Roses hipwreck research, I think that there was perhaps too much on that subject in a book supposed to be relevant to general conservation science. But as conservation of objects recovered from underwater contexts is very challenging it deserved to be developed in this book.  

This book should definitely be of great use for conservators and conservation scientists during their training as well as during their professional life.