Chemical and Technological Department, Monuments Board of the SR – History and the Present
In 2011 we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the first state organisation of monument conservation, the Slovak Institute for Monument Preservation. It was established in 1951 under Decree of the Ministry of Education, Sciences and Arts No. 9864-I/5 dated 15 March 1951, which came into force and effect on 1 January 1951. On this occasion we would also like to remember the origin and development of the Chemical and Technological Department.
As the responsibilities of the Slovak Institute for Monument Preservation also included restoration works, akad. mal. Pavol Fodor, head of the Restoration Department, established a physical and chemical laboratory. The Restoration Division thus comprised Restoration Department and Physical and Chemical Laboratory. The list of activities of the Restoration Division has been adjusted over the years.
The Physical and Chemical Laboratory as part of the Restoration Division started working in 1960, after the arrival of Ing. Oľga Šujanová and Ing. Teodora Maňková. The laboratory was temporarily located in building of the Slovak National Museum at Vajanského nábrežie in Bratislava. The lab started processing samples that have been collected since 1955 and tested the application of methods of qualitative and quantitative analyses for material analyses of monuments and historic sites. Another test concerned the suitability of available synthetic resins for making micro-sections of samples. The types of protein binders have been identified using paper chromatography. After the arrival of Ing. Slavomír Motaj two X-ray apparatus discarded from medical facilities were put into operation, and the emission spectrograph for elemental analysis was replaced with Heyrovsky polarograph. While preferring physical and chemical examinations of monuments restored by the Division, the laboratory also examined monuments restored by the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, galleries, museums and Dielo. Sporadically they also made analyses for the Division of nature conservation. The laboratory staff also cooperated in architectural and archaeological surveys of built heritage. In 1966 they developed a project and carried out the renovation of wooden Evangelical Church of Augsburg Confession in Paludza, which was largely infected with ligniperdous fungus, Serpula lacrymans. They managed to disassemble the construction and move it away from the floodplain of the Liptovska Mara dam. They also cooperated in transferring the Roman-Catholic church from Liptovská Mara, the castle from Parížovce, and mural paintings.
Responsibilities and duties of the laboratory were related mainly to the following areas: physical and chemical analyses for the examination and restoration of monuments, research in the area of technology and documentation of monuments, studies on the theory and methodology of monument preservation, development of technical manuals, and control of restoration procedures. The research tasks included, for instance, the examination of historical mortar and plasters that extended the knowledge on historical construction technology in Slovakia; examination of medieval mural paintings; examination of Neolithic pottery; examination of the impact of the atmosphere on stone monuments; examination of climatic and microbiological conditions on historic sites in Slovakia, and solutions to a number of other technological problems in the area of conservation. The extensive research work can be considered the Technical documentation of wooden polychrome sculptures within which a total of 95 Gothic statues were processed between 1969 and 1972. The statues were documented in photographs and X-ray pictures; the measurement of typological characteristics was carried out that allowed for comparison of individual woodcarving workshops; and stratigraphic analysis for polychrome samples was made. The samples for physical and chemical analysis of pigments, supports and binders were taken as well as samples for the identification of the type of wood. For nine years, the Physical and Chemical Laboratory also served as a secretariat of ICOMOS Czechoslovak Committee.
In 1974 the lab moved to newly reconstructed premises of former barracks at the Bratislava Castle. In 1976 the restoration activities were delimited to the Arts and Crafts Centre (Ústredie umeleckých remesiel). The Physical and Chemical Laboratory underwent restructuring; the Chemical and Technological Division was established, headed by Ing. Oľga Šujanová, consisting of two departments: the first department focused on the examination of monuments from the area of fine art (Ing. T. Maňková, E. Klučková, Ing. S. Štefánik), while the second one (Ing. I. Cebecauer, Ing. M. Mirza, Ing. Rozinaj) engaged in the technology of renovation of built heritage (plasters, stone, wood, and statics).
In 1981, the State Restoration Ateliers were established as part of the Centre of State Monument Preservation, which incorporated restorers from Arts and Crafts Centre as well as the Chemical and Technological Department. The laboratories were moved from the Castle to temporary (and unsatisfactory) premises in so-called office containers in Lamač. The activities of Chemical and Technological Department have been fully re-established in 1985 after the completion of reconstruction of a dwelling house at Leškova 17. In the State Restoration Ateliers, which was an allowance organisation, the field of activity of the Chemical and Technological Department was extended to cover the entire territory of Slovakia. As a result the Department carried out research and survey also for museums, galleries, and restorers and preservers working as free-lance artists. As the Department had nine employees, part of them could engage in practical tests of renovation and reconstruction technologies directly in the field. The department was headed by Ing. Ivan Cebecauer, Ing. Karol Bayer dealt with restoration technology, Ing. Daniela Straková-Cebecauerová specialised in wood, and RNDr. Miroslav Lipovský focused on stone. The better part of staff members focused on the analyses of pigment layers: Eva Klučková, Ing. Jana Želinská, Ing. Tatjana Bayerová, Ing. Mária Krajčírovičová, Ing. Jana Sanyová-Kunová. As for the instrumentation, the lab managed to obtain high-quality Jenapol polarised optical microscope and infrared spectroscope for the analysis of organic materials; a new X-ray apparatus was purchased and installed too. Unfortunately, as a result of frequent transfers and the common wear and tear (impaired optics), the emission spectroscope serving mainly for elemental analysis of pigment layers had to be discarded.
During the existence of the State Restoration Ateliers, a number of research tasks, technological plans and procedures relating to monument conservation and restoration have been developed. In Banská Štiavnica, for instance, they included the examination of facades of Calvary chapels, survey of wooden reliefs in Calvary chapels, examination of plasters, mortars, stone and mural paintings at both Old and New Castle, examination of the Plague Column, survey of mural paintings at the Metropol Hotel, in Old Hospital and in the town hall, and examination of Renaissance timber ceilings in burgher houses. One should also mention the examination of the castle in Sv. Anton, where the lab analysed mortars, plasters, stone components, mural paintings on the facade, on the floor and in the chapel, wallpapers, etc. Among the surveys carried out in Bardejov were the survey of mural paintings, stone components, roof frame and coffered ceiling of the town hall; examination of plasters and stone components in St Egid Church; examination of the facade of Šariš Musuem, and survey of plasters from town fortification. The attention should also be paid to the examination, assessment of condition and development of restoration plan of the travertine monument of M.R. Štefánik at Bradlo. The lab examined Baroque altars and pulpit from St Stephen Church in Beckov as well as chapels in early-Baroque Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Trnava, where the samples from altars, mural paintings and crumbling stucco decoration were analysed.
One must not forget the number of researches conducted in Bratislava. The survey of Gothic mural paintings, Baroque sculptures, Rococo pulpit, Loretan chapel, and fragments of the original portal was conducted in the Franciscan Church. The Department cooperated with the Regional Restoration Atelier Bratislava in renovation and restoration of Grassalkovich Palace; examined mural paintings in Sala terrena and in the chapel; carried out examination of gilded elements in the main room, balustrades, chandeliers and other elements in the palace. The cooperation with the Regional Restoration Atelier Bratislava also included the restoration of reliefs on the fence of the Office of the Government. The Department also examined paintings in St Ladislaus Chapel at the Primate´s Palace for Polish restorers. Among the significant surveys were Baroque mural paintings by P. Troger in a church and other buildings of St Elizabeth´s Monastery; condition of wood panelling at Esterházy Palace, roof frame and roofing material in Segner´s mansion, etc. One must not forget the number of surveys conducted in Levoča, in particular altars in St James´ Church, timber ceilings in the town hall and burgher houses, mural paintings in the cloister of Minorite Monastery and other statues, paintings and stone elements restored at the Regional Restoration Atelier Levoča. As for the restoration of Evangelic wooden articular church in Kežmarok, the Chemical and Technological Department took part in the examination of timbering, wood panelling, mural paintings, altar, pulpit, font and organ as well as in the development of technological plan for the restoration of mud plaster (daub) used on the church facade. In Košice one should mention examinations carried out at St Elisabeth´s Cathedral, namely high altar of St Elizabeth, sculptures of Calvary, stained-glass windows, dome, and the assessment of and technological plan for the reconstruction of wood roof frame and conservation and renovation of stone components. The Department also examined mural paintings and stone elements in the interior, and pastoforion and main portal of St Michael´s Chapel. In Dominican Church, the Department assessed damages to plasters of the vault, and carried our physical and chemical survey of a mural painting on the ceiling.
In 1994, the Monuments Board of the SR was established as a result of the merger of State Restoration Ateliers and the Slovak Institute for Monument Preservation. Ing. Daniela Cebecauerová was appointed a head of the department. The number of employees of the Chemical and Technological Department has gradually reduced to four people. After the departure of Mr and Mrs Bayer in 1996, Mgr. Martina Stillhammerová arrived. In 2000 the laboratories were moved from Leškova Street to the seat of the Monuments Board of the SR (Cesta na Červený most). After a years-long effort, the Chemical and Technological Department staff succeeded in obtaining new instrumentation for their department and for the Department of Graphic Documentation from Cultural Grant Assistance granted by the Japanese government. The Chemical and Technological Department received a scanning electron microscope JEOL JSM-6060 LA with energy dispersion X-ray analyser EX-23000 BU, which increased the technical and informative value of research works.
Today the Chemical and Technological Department, a specialist laboratory headed by Ing. Jana Želinská, PhD, has three permanent employees. Along with Regional Restoration Ateliers it is part of the Division for Restoration Activities of the Monuments Board of the SR. Over the last decade, the most important activities of the Chemical and Technological Department included participation in international projects “Research and documentation of medieval mural paintings in the Carpathian Basin” and “Research and documentation of painted-wood ceilings and tribunes in the Carpathian Basin” within which the examinations of Roman and Gothic mural paintings and painted-wood coffered ceilings and tribunes in churches in south-eastern Slovakia and northern Hungary were carried out. In the period of 2003–2006 another international research project “EVK4-CT-2002-00084 – ROCEM Roman cement to restore built heritage effectively” was carried out aimed at putting the original historical material used on facades of many representational buildings in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century into restoration practice (For more information visit www.pamiatky.sk/pamiatky/ochrana-pamiatkoveho-fondu/rocem-/). In 2006 the supply of technological devices in a total amount of SKK 15 million was successfully completed, funded from the Cultural Grant Assistance granted by the Japanese government (Annual Report of the Monuments Board of the SR, 2005).
As part of the cooperation with the Slovak National Library in Martin, the Chemical and Technological Department participated in 2009 in the project “APVV-0165-06 Examination of conservation and cultural and historical assessment of parchment documents in the Slovak National Library in Martin. Pigments used in the initial painting on parchment documents from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries were analysed using SEM-EDS method. The analyses were extended to include the determination of optical and morphological characteristics of individual pigments in optical microscope.
Performing main tasks of the Monuments Board of the SR, the activities of Chemical and Technological Department continued in the monitoring of all wooden churches in Carpathian region conducted in the past. In 2011 the Department carried out the monitoring of wooden churches in Slovak part of the Carpathian Mountain Area, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List (Bodružal, Hervartov, Kežmarok, Ladomírová, Ruská Bystrá, Hronsek, Leštiny, Tvrdošín). The monitoring focused on a relative humidity of air in the interior of the construction and on a relative humidity of wood. The attention was also paid to the condition of wood in both the interior and the exterior, to altars and equipment as well as to the activity of ligniperdous organisms (For more information visit www. pamiatky.sk/pamiatky/data/File/unesco/drev_kostoly_monitoring.pdf).
The Chemical and Technological Department also focused on panel paintings and iconostases in the region of Eastern Slovakia. The results of an array of exact analytical methods have been presented in the 2011 international scientific conference by the current head of the Department, Ing. Jana Želinská, PhD. Technological composition of icons was represented by samples taken from panel paintings on the iconostas at the Greek-Catholic Church of St George the Great Martyr in Jalova. General findings concerning the materials used such as underlayment, supports, layers of pigments and varnish glazing typical of icons of the Central Carpathian Region in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries could have been formulated based on the examination of iconostases and mural paintings from Kalná Roztoka, Bodružal, Jalová, Matysová, Šmigovec, Ruská Bystrá, Jedlinka, Uličské Krivé, Topoľa, etc.
The Chemical and Technological Laboratory of the Monuments Board of the SR is the only workplace in Slovakia focused on physical, chemical and technological examination and both destructive and non-destructive analyses of all types of movable and immovable monuments. Carrying out research and surveys related to the restoration and conservation of monuments, the specialised workplace offers its services to not only the Monuments Board of the SR and other memory institutions but also private owners of monuments in Slovakia and abroad. The Chemical and Technological Department takes active part in specialised research projects, significantly contributing to the extension of knowledge on Slovak monuments and historic sites and their restoration.
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