Recent research in the use of lasers in conservation

Meg Abraham


The use of lasers in conservation has continued to expand since the first Lasers in the Conservation of Artworks conference (LACONA) which took place in Crete in1993. Further, while the tool was originally used primarily in the area of conservation of outdoor works in stone, the tool is now being applied to a wide variety of materials. These include stone, metals, parchments and paints. While much of this work continues to be done across Europe, more recently there have been a number of research programs here in the United States and a few museums are now in possession of laser systems for conservation. The most resent LACONA V conference was held in Germany last summer having been proceeded by conferences at the Musee du Louvre, the Opificio della Pietre Dure and the Museums of Merseyside.

In this talk I will cover some of the basic principles of laser cleaning, including wavelength dependence, laser types, repetition rate and pulse length. . I will briefly cover a few safety issues, as this is paramount to proper use of the tool. I will also update the audience on laser analytical techniques, which are rapidly expanding in conservation analytical laboratories. These techniques are often comparatively non-destructive and so offer advantages for conservation research. Finally, I will outline some of the current trends in research and treatments presented at LACONA V.

This talk is intended as an update to conservators and not aimed at laser specialists. A demonstration of a portable laser system and a round table of participants involved in conservation projects using lasers will follow it. It is hoped that this will inspire more thought and discussion into the efficacy of these treatments and will help conservators working on this continent to be able to evaluate the use of the tool.

2004 | Portland | Volume 11