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In conjunction with the University of Delaware, it is part of the art conservation department that awards master’s and doctoral level degrees in art conservation and preservation studies, in addition to the American material cultural program.One of the best-equipped facilities in the country, Winterthur’s SRAL boasts an impressive array of equipment worth several million dollars: two x-ray fluorescence spectrometers, a scanning electron microscope with x-ray microanalysis capabilities, a Fourier transform infrared microspectrometer, a Raman microspectrometer, a liquid chromatograph mass spectrometer and a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer.Winterthur’s SRAL also prepares objects for exhibition, affirming their authenticity and helping undo prior restorations.As an example, Dr Mass notes that a Meissen tureen from the Campbell collection bore a decorative pattern from the 1730s.The devices allow analysis of the surface layers of an object, identifying and often dating any restorations or enhancements.It is in this laboratory that chemistry, the goose that laid the golden Du Pont egg, comes full circle. X-ray fluorescence spectrometers (XRF) permit the noninvasive identification of the elemental components of pigments, metals, glass and ceramics and stone.
It is also used to make accurate identification of restoration materials.
XRF analysis of a rare Amelung beaker was conducted and revealed a high potassium and high manganese content, and the absence of lead. The answers have long been found in traditional resources, such as research, documented history, family lore, examination and comparison with similar objects.
Dr Mass said because of the rarity of Amelung pieces, keepers of collections all over the country are interested in authenticity. Each of these resources has great value, but none is precise.
State-of-the-art scientific conservation facilities have sprung up at museums around the world.
One such site is the Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory (SRAL) at Winterthur.