NICAS: New research centre for Conservation, Art and Science

29 September 2015

On Friday 25 September the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture & Science Jet Bussemaker officially launched NICAS, the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science. The University of Amsterdam is one of the five collaborating partners in NICAS. It is expected the new institute will boost research at several institutes of the Faculty of Science.

The NICAS research centre brings together art history, conservation and restoration with the natural sciences, with the aim of improving the preservation of cultural heritage. In this field the Netherlands already has an outstanding track record, through various consecutive research programmes. 'Up until now, natural scientists from all over the country had to be found on an ad hoc basis', says Louis Vertegaal, Director of the Chemical and Exact Sciences Division of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). 'All the required expertise will now be available in one place at NICAS'.

NICAS is a collaboration between the NWO, the Rijksmuseum, the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). The NWO has made €5 million available for the first five years of the project. The allocation of the first round of applications for new NICAS projects will be established shortly. 

Researchers at the Faculty of Sciences investigate, amonst others, the chemistry of ageing processes in paintings and perform physical studies on porous art materials such as stone sculptures. ICT techniques are applied analysing the working methods of famous painters like Hieronymus Bosch. The institutes involved are HIMS (chemistry), IOP (physics) and IVI (informatics).

Improving fundamental expertise

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How much damage will be caused to a pastel during transport to another museum? How can we develop cleaning methods without affecting the chemical balance in oil paintings? These are just a few of the questions that will occupy NICAS researchers. Close collaboration between the fields of natural sciences, art history, and conservation and restoration enables vital research to be conducted. ‘This approach facilitates the development of new applications that help us to better understand, preserve and visualise national and international heritage’, explains Robert van Langh, Chairperson of NICAS and Head of Conservation and Restoration at the Rijksmuseum.

Source: HIMS

Published by  Faculty of Science