Problems and methods of cleaning: Practical examples of the cleaning of wooden objects from Egypt

Hany Hanna Aziz Hanna and Neveen Atef Meshrieky Meleka

Abstract

Much attention has been given to the treatment and conservation of some objects in churches, mosques and museums in Cairo, Egypt. Some of these objects are made of wood, including teak, cedar and pine, and are decorated with geometric patterns such as stars with animals, birds and floral designs as well as calligraphic inscriptions. They show a variety of techniques of construction and decoration, including paneling or joinery, gilding, painting, staining with shellac, incision and engraving and inlay with materials such as ivory, bone, shell and ebony.

These objects have been examined by scanning electronic microscopy (SEM), light microscopy, x-ray diffraction and IR spectroscopy (FTIR). Relative humidity, temperature, air and microbial pollution of the surrounding environment were also studied.

The different materials used in the manufacture and decoration of the objects displayed various forms of deterioration, resulting from the combined effect of environmental factors such as air pollution and relative humidity, etc. The deterioration includes (a) a high degree of soiling by particulate matter such as heavy dust and black carbon soot, mostly deriving from atmospheric pollution; (b) extensive alteration of original materials with lime plaster, plastic and oil paint, old paper of poor quality adhered with gum Arabic, and the use of modern nails; (c) damage by the modern application of coating materials that have undergone weathering.

In this paper the techniques used to recognize and identify the nature of these alterations, as well as the methods and the materials used for cleaning some of these objects, will be described.

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