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Materials Research

NCPTT’s Materials Research Program focuses on understanding how cultural materials deteriorate with time and on developing new methods to preserve these materials.

Research Summit of Preservation Scientists

NCPTT partnered with the Library of Congress and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to host a two-day summit focusing on future directions in preservation science. The meeting was held July 24-25, 2008 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The summit helped to share priorities, identify common goals and facilitate development of preservation research strategies to cooperatively advance the science resources needed to preserve cultural heritage in the digital age. International participants included those from the British Library; Canadian Conservation Institute; Center for Sustainable Heritage; University College, London; Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation des Collections (formerly the Centre de Recherche pour la Conservation des Documents Graphiques), France; the Koninklijke Bibliothek, Netherlands; and the National and University Library, Slovenia. Non-government national research centers included the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles; the Image Permanence Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology; and the Center for the Materials of the Artist and Conservator, Carnegie Mellon University. Other participants represented universities, museums and science centers. A follow-up meeting is planned.

Historic Congressional Cemetery

NCPTT and the NPS Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC) partnered with the Veterans Administration’s National Cemetery Administration to complete cleaning treatment studies on the Alexander MaCombe Monument and the U.S. Arsenal Monument in Historic Congressional Cemetery. Based on more than 12 months of research, NCPTT recommended pretreatment of the monuments using Prosoco’s HCT, followed by 48 hours of intermittent water misting. In the course of misting, a biocide is added. Jason Church provided HPTC staff with treatment recommendations and training while implementing the treatment on the MaCombe monument in September. A larger scale of the system will be built and used on the Arsenal monument. This novel treatment is environmentally friendly and requires fewer resources than other treatments.

Portable Tempest Laser
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art returned a portable laser system funded by NCPTT. The system is being reconditioned and will be used in graffiti removal studies and training at NCPTT’s joint laser facility on the Northwestern State University of Louisiana campus. The laser was originally purchased with federal funds as part of a cooperative agreement. NCPTT has been asked to sponsor a laser training workshop in partnership with the American Institute for Conservation for FY 2009.

New FTIR Microscope

A new Perkin Elmer Fourier Transform Infra-Red (FTIR) spectrometric microscope was installed in the NCPTT research labs in November, 2007. The instrument will allow researchers to map chemicals on the surface of cultural materials. This can be used to track chemical changes of organic treatments to small metal or stone surfaces over time. The instrument will be used immediately in conjunction with the evaluation of stone consolidation and cleaning treatment recommendations for the Arsenal and Macombe monuments in Historic Congressional Cemetery. NCPTT staff, including Jason Church, Catherine Situma, and Mary Striegel, have received applications training on the newly installed microscope.

Comparative Cleaning Study
Results to date regarding the evaluation of commercially available cleaners for federal headstones were accepted for presentation at the fall annual meeting of the Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI). Jason Church provided comparative results of cleaners including Cathedral Stone’s D2, World Environmental Group’s Marble and Granite cleaner, Kodak PhotoFlo, Daybreak, H2Orange Grout safe cleaner, and water. Based on these results, D2 and Daybreak are the top performers based on the ability to clean biological growth from marble surfaces. However, both cleaners are capable of leaving soluble salts. Further studies are on-going. This research will be presented as a case study in an upcoming Biology and Cultural Heritage Workshop in 2009.

NCA Interagency Agreement
The Department of Veteran Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, has entered into a new interagency agreement with NCPTT to continue the evaluation of commercially available cleaners for use on federally-issued headstones. The agreement provides NCPTT with $34,335 in funds to apply to this research over a two-year period. The follow-up study will continue to monitor biological regrowth at two national cemeteries.

NCPTT hosted one Cemetery Monument Conservation Workshop and three “Basics” workshops this fiscal year as part of its ongoing commitment to quality training in cemetery conservation. In addition, NCPTT televised two training broadcasts to National Park Service stations through the NPS TEL program.

Cemetery Monument Conservation Training, Pensacola, Fla. 2008

NCPTT held its Southeast Cemetery Monument Conservation Workshop at St. Michaels Cemetery in Pensacola, Fla., on Oct. 23-25, 2007. The workshop focused on geophysical techniques to identify unmarked graves. Special lecturers included Bryan S. Haley and Jay K. Johnson. Twenty-five participants from 12 states, Guam and the United Kingdom attended the three-day hands-on workshop geared to cemetery maintenance and management staff, monument builders and preservation professionals.

Cemetery Monument Conservation Basics, 2008
Cemetery Monument Basics workshops are geared to cemetery conservation enthusiasts and focus on topics of survey and documentation, condition assessments and basics of cleaning. NCPTT partners with state organizations or historic preservation offices to coordinate and fund these half-day workshops. The workshops are run on a cost-recovery basis and all travel costs are provided by the state organization. Three workshops were held within the 2008 fiscal year:

  • On September 29, 2007, NCPTT and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program held a Cemetery Preservation Basics Workshop in Hot Springs, Ark., at Hollywood and Friendship Cemeteries. A special topic of this workshop was African American Cemeteries.
  • On May 17, 2008 NCPTT and the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency hosted a Cemetery Monument Conservation Basics Workshop in Morris, Ill. A special topic of this workshop was grave surrounds, including fencing, coping, cribbing, and walls.
  • On June 12-14, 2008 in Savannah Ga., NCPTT and the Georgia State Municipal Cemeteries Association hosted a Cemetery Monument Conservation Basics workshop as part of the first annual meeting of the cemetery assocation.

TEL Courses
Two NPS TEL courses were offered by NCPTT in January. Instructors Mary Striegel and Jason Church team-taught the course, “Essentials in Cemetery Monument Care.” This two-hour course focused on proper cleaning and resetting issues and was designed for maintenance staff and personnel responsible for the care of historic cemeteries; cultural resource specialists who oversee the care of grave markers and commemorative monuments; and archeologists assigned the responsibility for care and maintenance of grave sites or cemeteries. The course had a minimum of 26 NPS employees participating. A new TEL course offering, “Basics in Iron Fencing Care,” was taught by Jason Church. This one-hour course emphasized sound maintenance techniques for iron fencing and exterior iron elements. The course addressed documentation, cleaning, simple repairs and surface treatments.

Grant Symposium
NCPTT and the New York Conservation Foundation hosted “Progress in Preservation through NCPTT Grants,” a two-part presentation on the PTT Grants program at the Eastern Analytical Symposium held Nov. 12, 2007 in Somerset, New Jersey. Twelve past PTT Grant recipients presented the results of their work at the sessions. The projects presented included topics of materials conservation, architecture, archeology, and landscapes. Mary Striegel co-chaired the sessions and presented on the NCPTT PTT Grants program.

NCPTT interns Stace Miller and Bilal Khurshid were acknowledged for their research efforts and professional presentations at NSU’s Annual College of Science and Technology banquet. Miller and Khurshid received awards for their American Chemical Society (ACS) presentations. In addition, Miller was the beneficiary of a research grant awarded to NCPTT by NSU’s research council, which will fund her attendance at the AIC annual meeting and presentation of her paper entitled “A comparative cleaning study for fragile marble monuments after pretreatment with Hydroxylating Conversion Treatment (HCT).” NCPTT intern Anna Johnson a junior at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, placed first in the regional science competition for her work using portable X-ray Fluorescence to study the effects of labeling methods on elemental analysis of archeological pottery.

The Materials Research Program hosted two interns during the summer of 2008: Molly McGath and Catherine Arceneaux. McGath is pursuing a Heritage Conservation Science PhD from the University of Arizona. Her main tasks were to continue comparative study of pollution deposition to cleaned marble and develop online learning modules for uses of thin-layer chromatography for binding media analysis. She graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design majoring in historic preservation. Arceneaux’s initiated a project on graffiti removal from masonry.
The NPS Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program awarded a position to NCPTT during the summer of 2008. Candida D’Avanzo continued work on the project, “Oral Traditions: Recording Fading Aspects of Traditional African American Burial Practices.” In addition to research, D’Avanzo attended the annual career workshop hosted by the NPS and the Student Conservation Association.


NCPTT consultated with Arlington National Cemetery regarding maintenance and repair of the Tomb of the Unknowns. Jason Church and Mary Striegel prepared a written report offering guidance regarding specifications for cyclic maintenance to the Tomb, including monitoring of major cracks, replacement of previous repairs, cleaning and treatment.

Jason Church and Sean Clifford assisted the WASO Historic Preservation Grants Program in documenting the effects of hurricane recovery grants in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In addition to taking photographs of the homes restored with grants funds, the team interviewed many of the owners about their experiences restoring the homes. Sean Clifford is working further with the grants program to develop a web site featuring the house projects.

NCPTT offered technical assistance to the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport, La. in November 2007. The museum expressed concern about the condition of several archeological copper objects associated with the Gahagan burials which were excavated in the 1930s. The objects included a pair of long-nosed god masks, a copper hand effigy and copper/wood ear ornaments. NCPTT staff, including Mary Striegel, David Morgan, and Jason Church, evaluated the chemical makeup of the objects using a portable X-ray Fluorescence Analyzer. They offered recommendations about display conditions and referrals to conservators who may assist the museum.

The Joint Readiness Training Center and Ft. Polk hosted their first Heritage Day Celebration on November 3 at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. Over 400 family members and descendents of those who owned the land before the military acquired it in 1941 attended the event. Jason Church was on hand to speak about caring for the more than a dozen family cemeteries that still remain on the military base.

Mary Striegel represented the National Park Service at the American Institute for Conservation Fall Board Meeting and Internal Advisory Group Meeting held November, 2007. Striegel is responsible for coordinating officers from ten specialty groups within the organization. Additionally, she participated in a strategic planning meeting for AIC.

The University of Cincinnati, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, invited Mary Striegel to speak on the topic of air pollution and cultural resources to an audience of more than 30 graduate students held Nov. 30, 2007. Striegel presented a 55 minute presentation that focused on three of NCPTT’s recent research projects. One outcome of this presentation was a visit on March 27 to NCPTT by Dr. Mingming Lu and Dr. Tim Keener to explore possible future partnerships.

Jason Church was part of a session on cemetery preservation planning and maintenance as part of Saving Places 2008, Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s annual historic preservation conference, held Feb. 6-8. More than 40 participants learned about surveying and documentation, project planning, and conservation of wooden gravemarkers.

In light of the growing variety of media, Mary Striegel was invited to present a 45 minute presentation to the 2008 Louisiana Library Assocation Annual meeting on March, 2008, in Shreveport, La. The presentation, entitled “Protecting and Preserving Louisiana’s historic Legacy: The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training – An Overview,” focused on advances in book, paper, photograph, electronic media, and moving image preservation resulting from NCPTT’s grants and projects.

NCPTT was represented at the Northwestern State University 21st Annual Research Day on March 20 by five staff members or associates. Presentations included the following:

  • “The Effects of Labeling Methods on the Elemental Analysis of Artifacts” by Anna Johnson
  • “Identifying Stone Commonly Found in Cemeteries” by Caleb Johnson
  • “A comparative cleaning study for fragile marble monuments after pretreatment with Hydroxylating Conversion Treatment (HCT)” by Stace Miller
  • “Comparative Study of Commercially Available Cleaners for Use on Federally Issued Headstones” by Jason Church
  • “Effectiveness of Consolidants to withstand Air Pollution” by Catherine Situma.

Jason Church and Stace Miller presented results of NCPTT research at the annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation in Denver Colorado, April 21-24, 2008. Church presented recent evidence that hard water irrigation systems in western states were resulting in severe granite deterioration. Miller discussed the development of treatment and cleaning methods for large marble monuments in historic Congressional Cemetery.

Mary Striegel participated in the 2008 MayDay event hosted by NCPTT and organized by Sarah Jackson. The event focused on disaster preparedness, response and recovery and targeted local and regional museums, collections, and historic homes. Striegel presented an overview of disaster preparedness strategies from online planning to disaster teams. She demonstrated the the NCPTT funded http://www.dplan.org/, an online planning tool created by the Northeast Document Conservation Center.

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119