Scientists team with curators to stem decay of humanity's greatest art and cultural treasures

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Washington, Feb 9 (ANI): Biotechnology scientists have teamed up with curators and heritage experts to find innovative ways to stem the decay of some of humanity's greatest art and cultural treasures.

This move is part of a 4-day, UN-affiliated international conference in Caracas, Venezuela.

"With the world financial crisis and the advent of climate change effects, there is a state of emergency at the museums of several tropical countries: entire collections are compromised," said Alvaro Gonzalez, a researcher at the Caracas-based Institute of Advanced Studies (IDEA) and Director of Venezuela's Cultural Heritage Conservation Foundation, the host of the event.

According to Jose-Luis Ramirez, Director of the United Nations University's Programme for Biotechnology for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNU-BIOLAC), an event sponsor, "The normal concern about single artifacts is no longer paramount."

"Storing and protecting entire collections safely has become a priority and scientists have a key role: developing techniques and procedures that are fundamental to heritage conservation," Ramirez added.

Many of the world's cultural treasures are creations made of organic materials such as paper, canvas, wood and leather, which, in prolonged warmth and dampness, attract mold, micro-organisms and insects, causing decay and disintegration.

New biotechnology techniques to be described include the use of micro-organisms to remove fungus and other problems on artwork, photos, documents, masonry and more.

In addition to biotechnologies, experts will revisit ancient ideas such as the Japanese technique of preserving frail items within multiple boxes.

They will highlight the potential use of Styrofoam packaging to economically protect items from rising heat, humidity and other environmental hazards.

Information to be shared includes how temperature, relative humidity, and dew point risk or benefit collections, the new technologies available to measure and analyze museum environment data, how to manage environments with minimal or no mechanical equipment and non-toxic, non-destructive treatments of cultural heritage items.

According to UN Under Secretary-General Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of UNU, "The items in museum collections have timeless cultural, scientific and aesthetic values that we hold in trust for future generations. They also have great commercial value derived from exhibitions, souvenirs, tours and publications."

"Despite the current economic downturn, we all have a great responsibility to ensure historic objects are managed and used in a sound and sustainable way and to safeguard them from the potential effects of a warming planet," he added. (ANI)

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