UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


TeACH Project

TeACH - Technologies and tools for the assessment of air pollution impact on immoveable and moveable cultural heritage

Deterioration of heritage materials is a cumulative process which is affected by environmental (climatic and pollution) conditions. As materials are exposed to the natural environment, they undergo discolouration, crack formation, and brittleness, as a result of a range of chemical and physical processes.

In the EU 7th Framework project TEACH (2008-2011), the Centre for Sustainable Heritage addresses the issue of pollutants responsible for weathering of cultural heritage in a novel way, looking into the future. The typical pollutants in urban areas across Europe are changing and will continue to change in the future. The principal TeACH project aims are:

1. To identify pollutants that may play the most important role in the future

2. To develop a simple, economical, compact kit comprised of existing and new devices for monitoring the weathering of cultural heritage

3. To produce a new tool to correlate the changing damage patterns outdoors with the likely damage to cultural materials indoors.

Atmospheric pollution dramatically accelerates the rate of decay of outdoor and indoor heritage materials. This has led to the development of many novel techniques of preservation such as the application of synthetic coatings on stone. It is essential to obtain quantitative data on air pollution effects on heritage materials and coating materials in order to be able to evaluate the economic effects.

Environmental monitoring and material testing play a key role in this phase. Natural weathering tests offer reliable data helping us understand the synergistic effects of a number of parameters, such as temperature, light, humidity, and pollutants on the stability of materials. Unfortunately, they are slow and time-consuming, however, by exposing samples to slightly exaggerated conditions (e.g. indoor materials exposed outdoors), suitable acceleration of the degradation processes can be achieved.

Project partners

CNR-ISAC, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Italy
ICIE - Cooperative Institute for Innovation, Italy
University of Antwerp, Department of Chemistry, Belgium
NILU - Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Norway
UCL - Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University College London
HDK - Cologne Cathedral - Dombauverwaltung Köln, Germany
MNK - Crakow National Museum, Poland


Dr Matija Strlic
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Dr Gianluca Pastorelli
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At the Centre, we are particularly interested in pollution damage to indoor heritage materials and are conducting a comprehensive study of the synergistic effects of traffic-generated pollutants, temperature and relative humidity. The Centre's researcher on the project, Gianluca Pastorelli, developed a complex experimental set-up looking at how pollutants affect paper in dependence of material properties of the paper, as well.

The information will be summed up in the form of comprehensive damage functions, which will provide the information on synergistic effects of pollutants and environmental parameters on material decay. This innovative approach will enable us to prioritise actions to be taken in terms of indoor pollution mitigation in collections. 


The TeACH project will contribute to develop a European wide accepted list of guidelines, which will include methods for evaluation, monitoring and mitigation of the effects of pollutants on cultural heritage. These guidelines will be of interest to museums, conservation laboratories, conservation science institutes and companies.

The impact of the TeACH project can be also assessed by the level of attendance of over 50 researchers and students at the workshop on 'Monitoring pollution damage to cultural heritage' held in June 2011.

Related Links

Go to the TeACH website