Project facts

Duration: 2021-05-18 - 2023-05-17
Project coordinator: Jerzy Haber Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Funding bodies: project no. 2020/37/N/HS2/01727 funded by National Science Centre, Poland
Subject areas: Heritage Management, Sculptures, Tangible Heritage
Budget: 136 500 PLN


Wooden sculptures are an important part of the European cultural heritage, which is mirrored in the abundance of such pieces of art gathered in museum collections and decorating historical, especially religious buildings. At the same time, polychrome wood is among the materials most vulnerable to environmental variations which lead to irreversible structural and aesthetical damage.

This issue is particularly relevant for the preservation of wooden heritage in historic buildings which are heated during cold periods. Churches are particularly important category of endangered historic buildings as they usually contain valuable wooden furnishings and decorative objects. Most churches are heated now and the heating strategies are usually dictated by human comfort during services or cultural events on the one hand, and efforts to reduce energy consumption cost on the other. Temperature and in consequence also RH can vary significantly in a heated church over a short period.

The ambition of the project is to deliver sound data which would inform evidence-based environmental specifications for those interiors. A computer model of a sculpture made of lime wood and endangered by RH variations  will be developed based on fracture mechanics which allows risk of crack propagation to be calculated for historic objects which already have accumulated micro-damages over a long-term exposition. The developed model will be validated experimentally and used to assess risk of crack propagation in massive wooden objects, particularly sculptures, due to dynamic variations in temperature and RH.

Impacts & Results

The project aims at developing the evidence-based climate control guidelines for long-term preservation of massive wooden elements, with emphasis on sculptures, in Central Europe, in particular guidelines as to how to minimise risk caused by dynamic short-term microclimate variations in historic houses used for commercial or cultural events as well in churches heated for services or concerts.

The project results will be of great interest to the heritage science research community as the project merges innovative approaches of engineering to answer questions posed by humanities, particularly conservation and collection management.