UPDATING POPART’S CLEANING PROTOCOLS & LOW-COST MONITORING OF DETERIORATING PLASTICS BY WAY OF A RASPBERRY PI
BY MARK KEARNEY, BRENDA KENEGHAN, BORIS PRETZEL
My talk would cover two aspects of the work carried out during my 18 month internship into the conservation of modern materials at the V&A Museum, London. I will split the time of the presentation accordingly with the majority (15-18min) being spent detailing the work involved in updating the plastic cleaning protocols, the remainder will be spent describing a timelapse video project using a raspberry pi and camera module. The topics covered in my talk directly tie in with the themes of this year’s Future Talks 015, specifically ‘Innovative documentation techniques’ and ‘The degradation of modern materials and its conservation’.
My internship’s main focus was repeating and expanding the experiments conducted during POPART: Preservation of Plastic Artefacts in Museum Collections, an EU funded project. While the original POPART cleaning protocols formed a solid starting point, we felt that for some of the cleaning assessments the reproducibility was low while the systematic error and user subjectivity were too high to make concrete recommendations to conservators. Furthermore, we also felt that the synthetic soil used during POPART was not representative of what one would find in a museum context.
During the past year I have been investigating new methods of image capture and analysis for measuring contact angle, one of POPARTs modes of assessment. To improve the experiment we re-engineered the experimental setup by creating a custom mounting stage, using a DSLR camera, and utilized more advanced software specifically designed for contact angle measurement. These new experimental conditions have improved the quality and consistency of images, while the software has reduced the systematic error of contact angle measurements.
Over the course of the summer I will use these new methods to test the suitability of two kinds of microfiber cloth and cleaning agents (Orvus paste & Dehypon LS45) in the cleaning of Perspex and Polyester. I hope to present the results of these tests, along with detailing the modifications made to POPARTs cleaning protocol during my presentation.
The second part of my talk will be a short description of a long-term timelaspe project that uses a Raspberry Pi computer (an inexpensive credit-card sized computer designed for teaching children computer coding.) During the internship we noted that two plastic handbags, that are part of the teaching collection, had deteriorated very quickly and we wished to capture any remaining deterioration using timelapse photography. The Raspberry Pi with attached camera module allowed us to capture images automatically over several months. The computer code was relatively easy to implement however the initial experimental setup proved too inconsistent for the production of a high image quality video. The experiment setup was changed with the camera modified to shorten its focusing distance and better lighting installed. The resulting video is significantly better in quality. The images have allowed us to show that the handbags are actively changing shape, although not as dramatically as before.