How science protect our cultural heritage?

Updated: Mar 10

Interview with Lavinia de Ferri

After a long and cold winter in Tromsø, Joana decided to travel and visit the Urnes Stave Church in Luster. Once she arrived at Bergen by plane, Joana embarked on Bergen-train and travelled up to Myrdal, taking one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, the “Flåm Railway”. The bus from Flåm to Sogndal passed through the Laerdal tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world (24.5 km) and Joana could calm down from the drunkenness of these magic views. After 10 minutes of travelling through the tunnel, she woke up and drew the map of her next trip…

Does it sound familiar to you? Like Joana, many people dream and travel around the world to visit magic and unknown places, to discover “who we are” and “where we come from”.

Cultural heritage is key for human identification as it relies on the memory of the communities and individuals. Cultural assets are reflections of socio-political changes over the years. For instance, the decoration on the outside of the Urnes Stave Church, including wood carvings and sculpted décor, is visual evidence of the Viking culture transformation and adoption of Christianity (Link).

Dr. Lavinia de Ferri diagnosing artwork samples!

Exploring old cultural assets with scientific techniques gives important historical data and helps to prevent current and future deteriorations. But preserving cultural assets is complicated as the selection of replacing materials must be compatible with the existing appearance and with similar chemical and physical properties.

To learn some interesting facts about the protection of cultural heritage materials, we interviewed Lavinia de Ferri, an associate professor at the University of Oslo (UiO) at the Department of Collection Management-Museum of Cultural History. Lavinia has a great scientific interest in the characterization and protection of cultural heritage materials and she is participating in the EU-project IPERION-HS that aims to establish a permanent European research infrastructure for heritage science.