PVCare – Preventive Conservation Strategies for Poly(vinyl chloride) Objects

Synthetic polymers dominate many contemporary art and design collections and are rapidly becoming a significant conservation concern. Surveys have shown that PVC can represent 13% of all plastic objects in such collections and that cellulose acetate, cellulose nitrate and PVC represent 40% of all objects in poor state. With the new and exciting forms of artistic expression that synthetic materials enable, their prevalence is set to increase in the future, which makes the need to understand PVC ever more pressing, as one of the three main “problem” polymers in collections.

Figure 1: Examples of iconic PVC art and design objects. Left: Essuie-mains / Hygiène de l’art, 1971 (inv. no. AM 2006-114), middle: Fauteuil Blow, 1967 (inv. no. AM 2007-1-38), right: Plafonnier, 1968 (inv. no. AM 2007-1-5) from MNAM, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.

So far, there has been no major international or national research effort to understand and address the issue of preventive conservation of PVC. Although there is a vast body of knowledge on PVC degradation in the polymer engineering literature, much of it is of limited relevance to degradation at room temperature, which needs to be studied and understood in order to develop evidence-based preventive conservation guidance. Of particular interest will be processes that represent conservation concerns such as discolouration, surface stickiness and cracking, during conditions of long-term storage.

The projects goals are:

  • To recognize the fundamental link between chemical degradation and mechanical damage and using this information to develop preventive conservation guidelines for modern heritage and art collections made from poly(vinyl chloride) – PVC.

Planned research:

  • Survey real heritage collections using non-destructive analytical tools to determine material composition as well as to quantify the extent of damage by measuring colour, quantifying surface deposits of additives and by measuring the extent of cracking in historical objects.
  • In-depth scientific research into more than 70 sacrificial historical samples of PVC in order to obtain compositional data. With these well-defined samples, we will carry out accelerated degradation experiments at various conditions in order to assess the rates of degradation.
  • Quantify the accumulated damage and develop models, i.e. damage functions, that quantitatively describe the relationship between rate of degradation, environmental conditions and sample composition.
  • Develop preventive conservation scenarios, exploring how the rates of degradation can be slowed down at various combinations of environmental parameters.

Partnership

The project (N1-0241) is funded through the CEUS scheme in collaboration between NCN (Narodowe Centrum Nauki) and ARRS (Slovenian Research Agency) and involves:

In collaboration with:

Please contact us for further information or to establish collaboration.

Scientific achievements:

Paper: 

Conference presentations:

  • POK Špela, RIJAVEC Tjaša, PAWCENIS Dominika, SAAD Marwa, BUCKI Marek, BUJOK Sonia, ANTROPOV Sergii, BRATASZ Łukasz, KRUCZAŁA Krzysztof, KRALJ CIGIĆ Irena, STRLIČ Matija. PVCare: Preventive Conservation Strategies for Poly(vinyl chloride) Objects. 1st conference of the Slovenian node of the European Research. University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia Infrastructure for Heritage Science, 22nd November, 2023 https://www.e-rihs.si/uploads/E-RIHS.SI%201st%20Conference%20BoA.pdf [COBISS.SI-ID 18135680]
  • RIJAVEC Tjaša. The effect of intrinsic and environmental parameters on the loss of plasticizers from PVC objects, Scientific Methods in Cultural Heritage Research Gordon Research Seminar, 9.-10. July 2022, Les Diablerets, Switzerland. [COBISS.SI-ID 119184131]
  • RIJAVEC Tjaša, RIBAR David, MARKELJ Jernej, STRLIČ Matija, KRALJ CIGIĆ Irena. Combining spectroscopy with machine learning for the analysis of plasticizers in modern and contemporary PVC. Chem-CH: 6th International Conference Chemistry for Cultural Heritage, 4.-8. July 2022, Ravenna, Italy (p. 22). [COBISS.SI-ID 116291587]
  • RIJAVEC Tjaša. Modelling the lifetime of PVC in collections, online lecture at Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, 23. June 2022, Suitland, Maryland. [COBISS.SI-ID 113980163]
  • RIJAVEC Tjaša, STRLIČ Matija, LANGFELDT Jannicke, MOORE Abby. Inflatable Baby Trump – to inflate or not to inflate?. Conservator-restorer, 2022, pp. 116, 149. [COBISS.SI-ID 114179843]
  • RIJAVEC Tjaša, RIBAR David, MARKELJ Jernej, STRLIČ Matija, KRALJ CIGIĆ Irena. Machine learning-assisted non-destructive plasticizer identification and quantification in historical PVC objects based on IR spectroscopy. Scientific reports, 2022, vol. 12, pp. 1-11, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-08862-1 [COBISS.SI-ID 102113283]
  • RIJAVEC Tjaša, STRLIČ Matija, KRALJ CIGIĆ Irena. Towards the development of a damage function for poly(vinyl chloride). Cutting Edge 2021: scientific conference for young researchers: independent in science, 16. September 2021, Ljubljana, Slovenia (p. 110). [COBISS.SI-ID 77513475]
  • RIJAVEC Tjaša, KRAŠEVEC Ida, STRLIČ Matija, KRALJ CIGIĆ Irena. Development of analytical methods to characterise PVC degradation. 26th Annual Meeting of the Slovenian Chemical Society, 16.-18. September 2020, Portorose, Slovenia (p. 157). [COBISS.SI-ID 31970819]

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