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May Science Café to explore the science of art conservation


Even great art can age badly. To help prevent this, art conservators and scientists are working together to understand, and then improve upon, how the materials used to create art deteriorate due to factors in their environment.

Stuart Croll, professor in NDSU’s Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials, will discuss art conservation and its challenges in the May Science Café, “Science and Art Conservation,” scheduled for Tuesday, May 7, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Stoker’s Basement, Hotel Donaldson.

Preserving artwork in galleries, museums and outdoors now includes 21st century scientific techniques. “If you have to clean something, you must use a solvent that only removes the grime but doesn’t affect the underlying artwork,” Croll said. “You need a very detailed understanding of physics and the chemistry of how things are dissolved – which materials are affected and which aren’t.”

Even modern materials, such as plastic or fiberglass, aren’t immune to corrosion and discoloration. Wide temperature swings, ultraviolet light, pollution, road salt – all may cause artwork displayed outdoors to deteriorate. For example, Fargo’s famed “Sodbuster” sculpture that stood downtown for decades suffered with degradation caused by ultraviolet light and vibration from nearby trains.

Croll said he hopes to shed light on how scientists with expertise in coatings and polymeric materials can help art conservators understand and best preserve the materials used in a piece of art. “That’s part of conservation science,” he said. “What are the best conditions for storing the art? How must we protect it?”

Attendees must be 21 or older or accompanied by a parent or guardian. For more information, contact Keri Drinka at 701-231-6131 or

Science Café, sponsored by NDSU’s College of Science and Mathematics, features a presentation by a scientist and time for discussion with the scientist and other attendees. For more information on the monthly series, visit

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