Search for ...

Conservation Science Department

In autumn 1996 the Conservation Science Department was set up at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (KHM), starting with one scientist. The new department was meant to support the restorers of the eight in-house collections in answering questions concerning materials and techniques used by the artists as well as in solving restoration problems.

Since 1998 the Conservation Science Department is available to curators and restorers of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (since 2001 also for the affiliated institutions Weltmuseum Wien (WMW) and Theatre Museum (TM)), doing physical and chemical investigations.

From 2002 onward the laboratory was enlarged in personnel and analytical techniques, partly due to projects supported by different Austrian research bodies. The modern analytical instruments, necessary for studying special topics, were mainly financed by research fundings. Today the Conservation Science Department is involved in a number of research projects – internally or externally funded – and has five staff members, i.e. four scientific coworkers and a secretary.

Duties and responsibilities

The Conservation Science Department is a scientific department dealing with topics connected to the study and preservation of objects held in the collections of the KHM and its affiliated institutions. The main tasks cover the research of artistic techniques and historic materials, the investigation of alteration and corrosion processes, the improvement of analytical techniques used in art analysis as well as the so-called preventive conservation, a topic very important to museums and collections.

Due to a close co-operation of the Conservation Science Department and the restoration departments of the museum specific concepts for the restoration and prevention of objects for future generations can be developed for single objects or groups of objects. In addition, the Conservation Science Department acts as a contact point for performing external analyses in co-operation with Austrian and international research institutes.

Results from the investigations are presented at Austrian and international scientific meetings and are published in different kinds of journals, e.g. also in the KHM’s own series called “Technologische Studien”.

The Conservation Science Department mainly deals with requests from the KHM, WMW and TM. Depending on the availability of resources investigations for external customers, e.g. other museums and collections or free-lanced restorers, can also be performed when paid for by the customer. Expertises concerning the authenticity of objects or their dating are generally not done.


Microscopic techniques

  • Incident light microscopy (light field, dark field, differential interference contrast, UV fluorescence),
    magnification 100 – 1000 times
  • Transmitted light microscopy (light field, dark field, polarisation),
    magnification 100 – ca. 600 times
  • 3D microscopy (HIROX),
    magnification 0 – 800 times
  • Electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray detection – SEM/EDX (using an instrument at the Institute for Art and Technology, University of Applied Arts Vienna,
    Head of the institute o.Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Alfred Vendl)

Spectrometric techniques

  • Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry – GC/MS
  • Pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry – Py-GC/MS
  • Portable µ-X-ray fluorescence spectrometer – µ-XRF (in preparation)

Preventive Conservation

  • Material tests: Oddy-test, microchemical tests
  • Controlling tightness of showcases: CO2-Logger
  • Measurement of volatile organic compounds (VOCs): handheld instrument ppbRAE3000
  • Monitoring of pollutants using MUSECORR sensors


Julia Spitaler, BSc
Tel. +43 1 525 24-5703

to top