13 May 2008

Science Adventures

After a day and a half or so of sightseeing, today we spent listening to lectures from some of the world’s top researchers on the conservation of paintings. We started the morning at AMOLF, the premier research facility in the Netherlands where we heard a lecture given by the man who figured out what was happening to paintings which seemed to form tiny pustules at the surface of the paint - it turns out that some of the metals used to give paint color (particularly lead used in white paint in the seventeenth century) actually reacts with the oils used in oil paints, forming pockets of what are called “metal soaps.” These cause lots of damage to paintings and have been found on nearly 70% of paintings in museums, so they’re a huge problem, but so far there isn’t any way to stop or prevent them. We had some excitement pretty soon after when as we were leaving, one of the girls in our group literally passed out, whether from hunger or jet lag I don’t know, but she went back to the hotel and is fine now. In the afternoon, we visited the Instituut Collectie Nederland (Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage) which is in charge of a huge portion of the moveable artwork in the Netherlands.
View of the Rijksmuseum from the roof of ICN.
Pretty soon after, another of our group had to go back to the hotel because she was feeling sick, a pretty likely side effect of her adventures last night. The rest of us headed to the restaurant where we were forbidden from drinking or going out tonight because of the problems the two girls had earlier. A few of us were pretty upset because we had purposely stayed in last night in order to rest with the intention of heading out tonight and the two who had problems today had gone out last night. However, I do plan to get lots of sleep tonight, pack, and get ready to leave for Delft and Haarlem tomorrow morning.

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