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In Lisbon, Cultural Heritage Science’s Biggest Conference Gets Going

It's not San Francisco folks, it's lovely Lisbon... Credit: Wikimedia commons.

I’ve just arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, along with 900 other delegates interested in the conservation of art and artifacts, for the International Council of Museum’s Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) conference.

The mega meeting happens every three years and this time it’s taking place at a conference center in the shadow of the Ponte 25 de Abril, a bridge so reminiscent of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge that I almost got a craving for sour dough. (That’s before I renewed my love affair with pastel de nata, Portugal’s joyous custard pastries.)

The menu for this year’s conference looks so good, I’m not sure whether it is physically possible to take in all the great talks that are scheduled.

Just this afternoon I’m going to learn about conserving wall paintings from Guatemala to India. There’s also a session about the trend among natural history museums to transfer animals (such as sharks) that are currently preserved in formaldehyde or ethanol in to other preservation solutions.

(The problem with formaldehyde is that it’s carcinogenic for museum staff, and DNA in the samples is compromised, thus thwarting the new trend of sequencing the genome of such artifact animals. The problem with ethanol is that long term storage in the alcohol can bleach color from animal samples and mess with their skin texture.)

I don’t want to miss out on the talks about analytical technologies used for auntheticating the origin of ancient photographs, nor how to detect microbial contamination in paper-based cultural heritage–even before any damage is done. And there’s also a whole section on environmentally sustainable conservation, which I touched upon in a previous post.

Stay tuned this week for more conference goodies from Lisbon. Até logo!

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