El MoLab: ayudando a conservar los tesoros europeos

29 julio 2009
From the outside, the van is nondescript. It doesn’t even have a diagonal red stripe. But inside, a hard-traveling team of art conservators packs an arsenal of high tech gear: an atomic-force microscope, a micro-Raman spectroscope, a nuclear magnetic resonance relaxometer. They’re like the A-Team, only with black turtlenecks and Gauloises.
The mobile laboratory — aptly code-named MoLab — is tasked with protecting cultural treasures. Sponsored by the European Commission, it’s better equipped than the cash-strapped museums that now rely on MoLab for scientifically sound data on the chemical composition of priceless works of art. Ideally, knowing, say, what sort of resin Mark Rothko used or which pigments are in a medieval manuscript can help determine the best ways to preserve the objects. And those findings also help ease the tension between curators, whose main goal is to display works, and conservators, whose job is to guard them from the ravages of time. “The art community is very protective,” says Bruno Brunetti, the team’s scientific coordinator. “They do not want you to move them or take samples. But once we carry out the measurements, they are surprised how much information can be obtained.”
In five years on the road, MoLab has analyzed everything from a pre-Columbian Mixtec codex in the British Museum to expressionist paintings, such as Angst and Puberty, at the Munch Museum in Oslo. MoLab can even track an artist’s style and methods — in 2005, the team found a sketch for da Vinci’s The Last Supper under the surface of another one of his paintings at London’s National Gallery. Expect more discoveries in the future: The European Commission just greenlit MoLab to keep museum-hopping the continent for another four years.

El gran enemigo de los museos es el paso del tiempo. Por ello la Comisión Europea está auspiciando una interesante forma de apoyar a los miles de museos repartidos por el continente: el MoLab, o laboratorio móvil.

Por fuera, el MoLab parece ser una van cualquiera, pero por dentro, cuenta con modernos equipos, como un microscopio atómico y una micro-espectroscopía Raman.

El objetivo del programa es ayudar a proteger los tesoros de los museos mediante exámenes científicos, tales como la composición química o las dimensiones exactas de los objetos. Así, los encargados de la preservasión podran realizar mejor su trabajo y conservar valiosas piezas, como cuadros, manuscritos y libros, por algunos tantos años más.

Al estilo Código da Vinci, los científicos del MoLab hicieron un asombroso descubrimiento en 2005: un bosquejo de La Última Cena de Leonardo da Vinci debajo de la superficie de otra de sus pinturas.

vía Wired