Application of radiation in the preservation of cultural heritage: IPCE

M. Bueso, I. Donate, A. R. García, B. Mayans & C. Vega
Physical Studies Section. IPCE

In the XXI Century, no one doubts the importance of experimental sciences for the conservation of cultural goods that are part of our immense cultural heritage. So much so that, for a few years, a discipline called Heritage Science is being consolidated, which seeks its study from a totally transdisciplinary perspective, with the aim of preserving it in the best conditions so that they can be enjoyed by present and future generations.

In the 1960s the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain (IPCE) was created, the state-owned center that ensures the conservation and restoration of our cultural heritage, and for this purpose, among other tools, it has imaging techniques derived of the exposure to electromagnetic radiation of the cultural good under study. Its application is essential because it generates a unique graphic documentation in itself, provides information on the state of a cultural asset at a specific moment in its material life and allows to know first-hand aspects that are not visible in direct observation.

The special characteristics of some of these techniques -especially X-ray and gammagraphy-, and their mode of use, make the IPCE facility acquire the category of radioactive, and for obvious safety reasons it requires professionally exposed personnel to validate and develop the works that are carried out in it, guaranteeing the derived safety requirements.

The IPCE has a long history in this field. Throughout the article we will delve into the information that can be obtained with examples in a varied typology of cultural assets and formats. Likewise, we will present the working procedure of this installation with these techniques, especially in the works carried out in situ, and the technological innovation around them with examples of their application in large formats.

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