SEAHA Centre for Doctoral Training


Selecting Safe Materials for Storage, Display, and Transport of Cultural Heritage


With the longevity of cultural heritage collections being paramount, the field strives to store, display, and transport artworks as safely as possible. For several decades, collection stewards have utilized the Oddy test, a simple accelerated aging protocol, to evaluate a material’s potential to cause chemical damage. The original Oddy test, which was developed by Andrew Oddy in the 1970s, is basic enough to be performed in a garage, making it accessible to those with limited resources. It has become widely used and modified, leading to more than 40 different versions being practiced and its application to all collection types. The variety of test methods in use and the inherent subjectivity of the Oddy test produce inconsistent and often difficult to interpret results. Those with significant resources often utilize more advanced tools such as mass spectrometry to identify reactive chemicals that emit from materials in lieu of the Oddy test. While the Oddy test is not perfect, the use of advanced analytical tools can also be problematic, as the field has a limited understanding of the concentrations of specific chemicals that are sufficient to cause damage to collections. This presentation will focus on changes to materials testing methods and data sharing protocols at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as research that aims to expand the field’s ability to apply advanced analytical tools to material selection.

Biography: Eric Breitung PhD


Eric Breitung focuses on modern preservation materials and museum environment issues. He earned a PhD in physical organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He worked in the polymer materials laboratory on thin films and coatings at General Electric's Research and Development Center for 10 years, during which he spent one year as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at The Met. He then worked on textile dye analysis at the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, followed by becoming senior scientist at the Library of Congress. There he focused on modern materials and development of materials analysis tools.