Pretty in pink? New restoration treatments to mitigate salt crystallisations and pink discolouration in historic buildings and monitoring of their effectiveness through "omic" analysis

  • Piñar, Dr. Guadalupe (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna)
  • Graf, Dr. Alexandra (FH Campus Vienna)
  • Sipek, Mag. Beate (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)

Climate change is one of the most serious threats our world is facing and predicted to amplify damage processes affecting our built cultural heritage. In this project, one factor directly associated to climate change, the increase of salt-crystallization cycles will be investigated. Salt weathering results from the combined action of salt transport and the in-pore crystallization under changing environmental conditions. The pressure exerted by the crystals on the pore surface is responsible for damage. Additionally, salt crystallizations mimic saline environments in buildings and offer an ecological niche for halophilic (salt-loving) microorganisms, most of them containing carotenoids pigments that produce an additional aesthetic damage consisting of a rosy discoloration phenomenon. The aim is to investigate to which extent the biodeterioration of stone and building materials is affected by salt crystallization cycles, a factor favoured by climate change, and how this factor affects microbial community successions, biological resilience and activity on stone materials.

To this end two historical buildings, displaying salt crystallization cycles, are chosen as natural models enabling the study of well-stablished microbial communities naturally exposed to this stress for hundreds of years. Conservator-restorers will monitor the microclimatic parameters and will undertake a sustainable desalination treatment on both buildings. They will apply new mineral poultices systems onto the walls, which offer promising advantages over cellulose poultices, as option of a long-term application and monitoring. Additionally, enrichment cultures and test specimens with different salinities will be set up to compare the community shifts caused by the artificial exposure to elevated salt concentrations. The community structure and function of the microbiota subjected to natural and simulated high salt concentrations will be investigated by omics analyses, using Next- (NGS) and Third-Generation Sequencing technologies (Illumina and Nanopore platforms, respectively). The analyses comprise amplicon 16S metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and full sequencing of the total DNA and RNA extracted from selected isolated strains.

The implementation of this project requires a coordinated interdisciplinary consortium of expertise spanning microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics and conservation-restoration. This initiative may form a solid basis for establishing standardized protocols for future and ongoing microbiological investigations on cultural heritage assets. The obtained results will expand our knowledge about the mechanisms of establishment and succession used by microbial communities to thrive, survive and be metabolically active in the extreme environments caused by elevated salt concentrations, which mimic our future climatic perspectives. This knowledge will help to decide upon appropriate conservation treatments for the future.

INventory and DIsseminate Graffiti along the Donaukanal

  • Verhoeven, Dr. Geert (LBG - Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, Vienna)
  • Pfeifer, Dr. Norbert (Technical University Vienna)

Graffiti is a short-lived form of heritage balancing between tangible and intangible, offensive and pleasant. Graffiti makes people laugh, wonder, angry, think. These conflicting traits are all present along Vienna’s Donaukanal (Eng. Danube Canal), a recreational hotspot – located in the city's heart – famous for its endless display of graffiti.

The two-year INDIGO project aims to build the basis to systematically document, monitor, and analyse 6.6 km of Donaukanal graffiti in the next decade. Combining the local graffiti community's engagement with regular visits along the Canal ensures that most graffiti gets colour-accurately photographed soon after their creation. A bi-annual total photographic coverage should pick up most of the remaining graffiti. All images are processed into detailed, distortion-free orthophotographs and textures for the canal banks' 3D surface model (provided by the City of Vienna). In this way, INDIGO will build a spatially, spectrally, and temporally accurate record of all possible sprayings, engravings and other works of personal expression attached in (il)legal ways to the public urban surfaces of the Donaukanal.

The OpenAtlas spatial database manages all these data, along with auxiliary data (like videos) and relevant metadata such as style, artist pseudonym, and creation data. INDIGO ensures (meta)data correctness and completeness through the graffitists' essential involvement and collaboration with local and international scholars. The CIDOC CRM ontology and a novel thesaurus facilitate a semantic database structure with hierarchical, graffiti-related terms.

This database represents a spatio-temporal inventory of all graffiti along Vienna's central waterway, thus explaining the project’s title INDIGO: IN-ventory and DI-sseminate G-raffiti along the D-O-naukanal. The dissemination part is taken care of by a freely accessible online platform that enables scholars, graffitists, and non-specialists alike to visualise, explore, and query graffiti inside the INDIGO database. This web-based interface allows virtual walks along the Donaukanal or the display of graffiti through time, while simultaneously supporting spatio-temporal-semantic questions like "where were all political messages from 2021 located" or "which graffiti was visible for more than three months and featured animals". In this way, INDIGO enables cultural, ethical, legal, or political assessments of graffiti. Simultaneously, its database size also invites the development of methods to mine and analyse extensive image collections.

Since storage in the ARCHE repository ensures the necessary digital longevity and free download of all data, INDIGO can realistically preserve and disseminate society's thoughts and artistic expressions marked upon its walls.

Colours revealed – Polychromy of Roman Monuments in the Danubian Provinces

  • Kremer, Dr. Gabrielle (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute for the Study of Ancient Culture – IKAnt, Vienna)
  • Pollhammer, Dr. Eduard (State Collections of Lower Austria)
  • Plattner, Dr. Georg (Kunsthistorisches Museum – KHM, Vienna)
  • Linke, Dr. Robert (Federal Monuments Authority Austria)

Colours revealed – Polychromy of Roman Monuments in the Danubian Provinces

Polychromy of ancient stone monuments has been in the focus of experts and the interested public for about two decades thanks to groundbreaking interdisciplinary research projects. Marble sculptures and architecture of the Mediterranean region have been presented in impressive reconstructions of their colouring and decisively changed our perception of classical antiquity.

The project PolychroMon aims at making the more recent results on ancient polychromy as well as new technologies of documentation and analysis usable for the stone monuments of the Roman period in the Danubian provinces. Within a cooperation between the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Archaeological Museum Carnuntinum (AMC), the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (KHM) and the Federal Monuments Authority Austria (BDA), these techniques are to be further developed on the basis of specific interdisciplinary questions and new fields of evaluation and application are to be opened up.

The objective of the project is to achieve a systematic evaluation from a multidisciplinary perspective. The artefacts under investigation will be primarily votive, funeral and architectural monuments from Carnuntum, the Vienna Basin and the Leitha area. Scientific analyses and archaeological studies will be mainly performed in the collections of the applying institutions (AMC, KHM) and several other Austrian collections. In addition, selected examples with traces of original colouring from other regions of the Imperium Romanum will be investigated for comparison purposes.

The project will cross archaeological and chemical-physical data and combine scientific and cultural-historical questions in order to open up new fields of research and of application for monument conservation, museology and knowledge transfer. An essential part is the application of innovative methods of non-destructive analyses on ancient artefacts. Systematic documentation and digital reconstruction of the colour traces and a comprehensive scientific evaluation is dependent on innovative Multispectral Imaging techniques. Contrary to traditional methods that require sampling, these imaging techniques enable contactless material identification and documentation of the entire object under investigation.

Significant progress is expected from the further development of these methods, which will allow for spatial mapping of even small traces of ancient pigments that are not visible to the human eye. This is achieved through a combination of different methods of multispectral analysis and virtual modelling, interlinked with the determination of the microscopic composition, chemical composition and atomic structure of the ancient materials.

Innovations can thus be expected in the field of analysis, documentation and visualization methods, in practical application (conservation, restoration), in the possibilities of cultural-historical evaluation and in knowledge transfer, science communication and museology.

Modelling the impact of future climate change on museum pests - insects and fungi

  • Querner, Dr. Pascal (Natural History Museum – NHM, Vienna)
  • Sterflinger, Prof. Katja (Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna) et al.
  • [Brimblecombe, Prof. Peter (City University Hong Kong, School of Energy and Environment, Hong Kong)] – not attending
  • [Leisner, Dr. Johanna (Fraunhofer Institute, Brussels)]
  • [Landsberger, Mag. Bill (Rathgen Research Laboratory, Berlin)]

This project aims at gaining a better understanding of how climate change affects will influence insect pests and fungi in museums, libraries and historic buildings in Austria. More specifically, the project will collect in-situ data on insects, fungi and climate from 20 Austrian heritage institutions in order to establish the statistical relationship between outdoor climate, indoor climate and pest abundance and activity. The findings will be employed to develop projections of the future populations of typical museum pests based on the most recent climate change scenarios.  Although the socio-economic significance of climate change is widely recognized, its potential to affect our cultural heritage was not explicit in the IPCC reports so far. A number of recent studies examine the direct impact of climate on buildings and collections. However, a warming climate and extreme weather events also fosters the development of various pests such as insects and fungi which are infesting and damaging collections. Comprehensive studies based on in-situ data on museum pests and the corresponding indoor climate data are lacking. Those will be complemented by laboratory experiments on the impact of climate on common and new museum pests to develop a pest climate response model. In this interdisciplinary project museums entomologists, microbiologists, climate and building experts work together to develop statistical models and future strategies.

Life and Death at the Danube-Limes. The Cemeteries of Lauriacum/Enns

  • Lang, Dr. Felix (University of Salzburg)
  • Huber, Mag. Lisa (University of Salzburg)
  • Marschler, Mag. Maria (Natural History Museum – NHM, Vienna)
  • Stadlmayr, Mag. Andrea (Natural History Museum – NHM, Vienna)
  • Traxler, Dr. Stefan (OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH – OÖLM, Upper Austria)

Lauriacum/Enns was the base of the legio II Italica from the late 2nd century into Late Antiquity and the most important military location in the province of Noricum. Several larger and smaller burial sites with a total of approx. 1,500 documented individuals constitute outstanding sources of life and death at the Danube Limes from the 1st to the 5th century. In the course of the project, the Kristein-Ost and Am Lagergraben cemeteries will be anthropologically-archaeologically examined and evaluated together with the already processed cemeteries at Steinpaß, Ziegelfeld and Espelmayrfeld.

Due to the permanent exchange between the main disciplines of archeaology and anthropology, as well as the cooperation with other scientists dedicated to parasitology, DNA studies, stable isotope analyses, as well as archaeozoology and archaeobotany, data and information on Noric cemeteries are being gained at a depth and quality not previously available. Studies of extensive burial grounds are of immanent importance for questions of cultural history. The interdisciplinary processing enables a chronologically and demographically differentiated picture of burial customs and grave goods customs. Through anthropological and other archaeometric analyses, conclusions can be drawn about nutrition, pathological, traumatic and degenerative changes, and consequently about environmental factors and the living conditions of the deceased, as well as about the population structure. The interdisciplinary approach also allows new questions and research approaches to be developed as the project advances.

The close scientific exchange with the research team, which is also working on the Great Cemetery of Castra Regina/Regensburg (2nd-7th centuries), sets a milestone in research into life and death at the future Danube Limes UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Particular attention will be paid to a permanent transfer of knowledge. In addition to several workshops with other research groups, a conference and public lectures are planned. The public should also be informed at least once a month about the various disciplines and methods, as well as the latest findings and special highlights, via a blog and social media. The OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH and the close cooperation with Museum Lauriacum will assure that the public is continuously informed. The collected results will be presented at an exhibition in Enns.

The impact of early photography and electrotyping media on the creation of images and contemporary art

  • Ljubić Tobisch, Dr. Valentina (Technical University of Vienna)
  • Artaker, Mag. Anna (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)
  • Kautek, Prof. Wolfgang (University of Vienna)

PHELETYPIA examines original daguerreotypes from the early period of photography, produced according to specific Viennese methods, and asks what this research teaches us for the era of the digital image. The project uniquely combines photographic history, photochemistry, electrochemistry, conservation, and artistic research. We know very little about the properties of the early Viennese daguerreotypes, and even less about their transfer into electrodeposited printing plates for further photomechanical reproduction. Detailed research and comparison of the preserved daguerreotypes and photomechanical prints from Austrian and foreign collections will enable a detailed study of these pioneering methods from the early 1840s.

The starting point for PHELETYPIA is a sensational find in the collection of the Technisches Museum Wien: an etched daguerreotype with a view of the emperor Joseph monument on Vienna's Josefsplatz from the early 1840s. The scientific research carried out so far has shown that the surface properties of this unique silver-plated copper plate are very specific and its nanostructures highly complex, differing from what has been observed so far in daguerreotypes. For a deeper methodological understanding further scientific studies are necessary. Therefore, as many early – i.e. before 1845 – daguerreotypes as possible will be examined and compared in PHELETYPIA.

An essential aspect of photomechanical reproduction involves the combination of photography and electrotyping. The term "Experimental Electrochemistry" created for PHELETYPIA refers to the simulation of the Vienna daguerreotyping methods, their etching and transfer into electrotype printing plates. The experimental work will be carried out at the Technische Universität Wien. The surface properties of a daguerreotype, as well as of a printing plate or a graphic print on paper, are the most important sources of information. The surface morphology and chemistry with its trace elements provides information about manufacturing methods and the fidelity of image transfer to another medium. This information is crucial for the conservation of these precious and delicate artefacts. Consequently, an important emphasis of this project is the determination of aging phenomena and considerations for their preservation.

Another essential task of PHELETYPIA is to relate the findings on the early processes to reproduce photographic images to questions we are facing in the age of the digital. There, original and copy have become indistinguishable to a point that it no longer makes sense to apply these categories. These questions will be explored through artistic research: experiments will be undertaken to create a series of artworks. These will be shown in an exhibition conceived as a hybrid of a presentation of the scientific findings and an exhibition of contemporary artworks. This exhibition will accompany a concluding symposium at the end of the project.

Digitization, Recognition and Automated Clustering of Watermarks in the Music Manuscripts of Franz Schubert

  • Loose-Einfalt, Dr. Katharina (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage – ACDH-CH, Vienna)
  • Koliander, Dr. Günther (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Acoustics Research Institute – ARI, Vienna)
  • Lindmayr-Brandl, Prof. Andrea (University of Salzburg)

The cataloguing of the music manuscripts of Franz Schubert is a primary interest of the Viennese Research Group of the New Schubert Edition (NSE). Since the beginning of the NSE in the 1960s, dating was a central task as it provides supplementary information on the history of the sources. This assessment was not only based on Schubert’s handwriting but also on the paper types he used.

The watermarks provide evidence about their place and time of production, and consequently lead to conclusions about the use of the papers. Relationships between the watermarks of individual manuscripts provide insight into Schubert's compositional process. Thanks to continuous source documentation, the NSE can today rely on a repository of more than 1,300 handwritten watermark tracings. As valuable as these tracings are, some were produced in unfavorable conditions and do not allow a comparative overview.

A contemporary digital visualization and indexing has long been a desideratum. With modern imaging techniques, using thermography, machine learning and signal processing, more objective results can be achieved. In this project, watermarks of music papers are to be taken by means of thermography and compared with each other. While the Berlin State Library and the BSB Munich, for example, are already working with this method, a corresponding device for this technique has not yet existed in Austria.

Due to the large number of watermarks and in order to maintain maximum objectivity, automated matching is to be carried out using signal processing methods. The basic ideas for these methods come from the field of fingerprint recognition, where a similar attempt is made to determine from a large number of data sets which corresponds to the same fingerprint. In a further step, a machine learning algorithm is trained to transfer handwritten tracings to thermographic images. In this way, the previous results of the Schubert research can be verified on the one hand. On the other hand, the gap between analogue and digitally collected source data can be bridged.

For the simple adaptation of the methods used, a user interface (GUI) will be created to facilitate the search for similar and identical watermarks, so that future research projects can fall back on the procedures tested here. In order to ensure open access and long-term archiving, the collected data will be entered into the watermark database WZIS on the one hand and into the database in XML-based MEI format on the other. The concept and progress of the work will be documented on a project website and thus be accessible online in the long term.

Sonic Memories. Audio Letters in Times of Migration and Mobility

  • Hallama, Mag. Eva (Vienna Technical Museum, Austrian Media Library)
  • Abromeit, Mag. Katrin (Austrian Academy of Sciences – Phonogrammarchiv)

‘The sound makes the music, even in a letter’ stated an article on audio letters in the Phonographic Journal in 1901. Since the turn of the 20th century, it has been possible to send spoken letters over long distances, even if the gramophone, the technical device for voice recording, was only affordable for a few, and the wax cylinder was not flat enough for inexpensive mailing by post. New inventions for recording the voice in the course of the 20th century produced new formats that could be sent more easily, such as the recording wire or self-cut foils, or were easier to use and their recording devices were cheaper, like the magnetic tape and the compact cassette. While the early audio letters were often sent by hobby phonographers or travellers from the middle class, the cassette formats were also used by people in precarious migration contexts. The Sonic Memories project aims to collect and research audio letters that are currently hidden in public archives or are privately owned and were sent by post from, to and within Austria from the beginning of sound recording to the establishment of digital formats. The historical sound recordings – some of which are threatened by decay – on wax cylinders, recording wire, direct-cut records, magnetic tape and various cassette formats, are being restored, scientifically examined, digitised and permanently saved at the Phonogrammarchiv and the Österreichische Mediathek. The collection will be built in a way that includes the donors’ knowledge, with whom interviews will be conducted about the meaning of the audio letters as ‘sonic memories’. In participatory workshops, archiving parameters – and thus forms of their inscription in the collective memory – are worked out. The scientific research to be conducted into these previously largely neglected historical voice messages has a twofold aim: a) to fill a gap in the (media) historical engagement with these sources and b) to reconstruct the largely unknown history of the cultural technology of acoustic letters in the context of migration and mobility. The research project employs an interdisciplinary perspective that combines an extensive repertoire of methods from conservation and restoration research, cultural and media history. Thus, it will be possible to analyse the material and its cultural significance in full consideration of its complex (historical) interwovenness. Material and cultural analysis complement each other and include the acoustic characteristics of the recordings, especially with regard to the affective moment of the spoken voice. The conducted material analyses provide comprehensive data for conservation research and lay the foundation for restoration measures. At the end of the project, the collection, the associated metadata and all research results generated in the project will be available as open access data for further research, stimulating and enabling future multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research in this area.

Garnet from the Ziller Valley - Cultural heritage of an East Alpine semi-precious stone industry as reflected in interdisciplinary research

  • Goldenberg, Dr. Gert (University of Innsbruck)
  • Tropper, Dr. Peter (University of Innsbruck)
  • Barth-Scalmani, Dr. Gunda (University of Innsbruck)
  • Zeindl, Dr. Gertraud (Tyrolean State Archive, Innsbruck)
  • Weiskopf, Mag. Katharina (High Alps Nature Park Zillertaler Alps)

In the high-altitude areas of the inner Ziller Valley in Tyrol, garnet was mined as semi-precious stone from the late 18th to the early 20th century and processed into rough stones for gemstone trading. Two families were involved in the extraction of the mineral from garnet-bearing micashists and its far-reaching trade throughout Europe. The garnets from the Ziller Valley, together with garnets from the Ahrntal in South Tyrol and Radenthein in Carinthia, were delivered first and foremost to the centres of gemstone cutters in Bohemia where the finishing to cut and polished gemstones and garnet jewellery took place.

Numerous remnants of the former garnet-processing infrastructure have been preserved in the high altitudes of the inner Ziller Valley close to the garnet deposits and thus form a unique cultural heritage in the heart of the “High Alps Nature Park Zillertaler Alps”. This heritage includes ruins of crushing and sorting huts and garnet mills, as well as an elaborate network of footpaths. Private collections of a large number of physical objects like garnet specimens, tools and remaining stocks of merchandise from the last exploitation period are in the possession of a well-known mineral collector and of the descendants of the garnet traders. These collections also include large volumes of handwritten documents and are available in their entirety for interdisciplinary studies. The aim of these studies is to reconstruct the social and economic history of this forgotten small-scale industry of the late 18th to early 20th century and the far-reaching trade networks in the territory of the former Habsburg monarchy.

Within the framework of this project, the cultural heritage of this unique semi-precious gemstone industry in the Eastern Alps will be examined from different perspectives and made accessible for museum presentation. The focus lies on the archaeological investigation of the material legacies, the studying and archiving of the written sources as well as the mineralogical/geochemical characterisation of the garnet as a semi-precious stone. Three dissertation positions in the fields of archaeology, history and mineralogy/petrology are planned, which will be jointly supervised by five project leaders.

The Ziller Valley with the High Alps Nature Park as a preserver of the local cultural heritage offers an attractive exploitation potential, for both local population and tourists, within the frame of exhibitions (indoor) and themed trails (outdoor) in combination with guided tours and educational offers. The last years have shown that climate change with irregular snowfalls and dramatic glacier retreat poses major challenges for Tyrolean winter tourism. It is therefore very important to create sustainable offers for visitors from all over the world that are attractive all year round in order to strengthen the local economy. The cultural heritage project “Garnet from the Ziller Valley" will make a valuable contribution towards this goal.


Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
Forschungsförderung – Nationale und Internationale Programme
Dr. Alexander Nagler
T +43 1 51581-1272