Plenary: Preserving and Revealing History—Challenges of a Cultural Heritage Scientist

March 19, 2019

LCGC North America

Fenella G. Frances of the Library of Congress will present the plenary lecture, entitled, “Preserving and Revealing History-Challenges of a Cultural Heritage Scientist” at 5:00 pm in Grand Ballroom B.

Fenella G. Frances of the Library of Congress will present the plenary lecture, entitled, “Preserving and Revealing History-Challenges of a Cultural Heritage Scientist” at 5:00 pm in Grand Ballroom B.

In this talk, Dr. Frances will explore the daunting challenges and rewarding discoveries of using advanced analytical techniques to unravel mysteries about cultural heritage, such as uncovering the secrets of the U.S. founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence and determining who wove the wool of the original star-spangled banner and how to save it from degrading.

Cultural heritage materials are precious. Thus these objects and documents cannot usually be examined except by using noninvasive analytical techniques to understand their condition and composition, and a forensic-like approach is needed to recreate the history of use, the impact of various environmental parameters, and provenance. Utilizing multiple complementary analyses ensures all information that can preserve the object is captured, creating huge datasets that bring with them their own set of problems. But analyzing data from diverse materials leads to exciting new discoveries, new methods of preservation, and helps to ensure the future of our most precious historical artifacts.

What is the biggest challenge? Knowing there is no room for mistakes because an artifact being studied is the only one of its kind.