Mineral instability within the museum environment

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Kathryn Royce is a doctoral student at the School of Geography and the Environment. She is currently researching mineral stability parameters within common indoor environments applicable to museums. She received a Bachelors of Science in Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology from Cardiff University. During her time there, she completed multiple summer placements at Oxford University Natural History Museum, National Museum Wales, and Colonial Williamsburg. Recently, she completed a MRes in Science and Engineering for Arts, Heritage, and Archaeology (SEAHA) at the University College London (UCL).

Current Research

Approximately 10% of the 5,400 identified mineral species are susceptible to average indoor conditions found within museum stores and displays. Some can be damaged by light, whilst others are affected by changes in temperature and humidity. The most notable example is pyrite. Museum professionals have lamented over pyrite deterioration for hundreds of years due to its key role in the destruction of innumerable fossil and mineral specimens.

Undesirable outcomes from mineral deterioration can include loss of specimens, information, and use. In order to prevent such losses, research into mineral stability is necessary to determine and provide ideal storage and display conditions. While such research may have been performed in other sectors, little has crossed over into museum literature.

This research will analytically review the stability parameters – both from literature and experimentally – of the most susceptible minerals commonly found in museum collections. Defining and identifying early stages of damage will also be determined. Combined, these will ultimately produce useful guidance on the preservation and care of mineral collections for their owners and caretakers.

This project is undertaken through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering for Arts, Heritage, and Archaeology (SEAHA CDT) in collaboration with National Museum Wales Cardiff, OR3D Ltd., and BSRIA Ltd.

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