A new approach to analysis of museum objects

A new approach to analysis of museum objects

As part of Richard Jones and Brendan Derham’s Leverhulme Trust-funded project ‘Towards non-destructive analysis in archaeological and conservation science’, a large collaborative programme of analysis was carried out in June-July 2010 on a wide range of objects held in the University’s Hunterian Museum and Library and in Glasgow Museums.  

Two non-destructive analytical techniques, X-ray fluorescence (Niton XL3t instrument; above and Fig. 1) and Infra Red (Exoscan of A2 Technologies; Fig. 2) spectrometry, were taken to the objects themselves, while a laser-based analytical technique,  Raman spectrometry, required objects to be taken to the instrument in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences’ ISAAC: Imaging, spectroscopy and analysis centre. 

The aim was to assess the  techniques’ performance in determining the composition and thus the identity of  mainly decorative materials and metals.  For example, richly-decorated Egyptian wooden sarcophagi in Glasgow Museums featured prominently (above and Fig. 1). One significant finding was the use of two pigments – arsenic and iron rich - to denote pale to yellow tones on the sarcophagi. The fine tapestries in the Burrell Collection were examined (Fig. 2), and different alloying traditions in Asian Buddha figures were investigated with XRF (Fig. 3). 


XRF analysis of an Egyptian sarcophagus in Glasgow Museum Resource Centre

 Fig. 1. XRF analysis of an Egyptian sarcophagus in Glasgow Museums Resource Centre 



  IR analysis of the large tapestry (Greek ambassadors at the Court of Troy; 46.82) in the Burrell Collection in progress; recording the IR spectrum (inset)

Fig. 2. IR analysis of the large tapestry (Greek ambassadors at the Court of Troy; 46.82) in the Burrell Collection in progress; recording the IR spectrum (inset)



XRF analysis in progress on a bronze Buddha in Glasgow Museum Resource Centre

Fig. 3. XRF analysis in progress on a bronze Buddha in Glasgow Museums Resource Centre