Author:
Paula Dredge, Head, Paintings Conservation, AGNSW

2th Biennial Infrared and Raman Users group (IRUG) Conference

23-25 May 2016

Ormylia, Greece

After attending my first IRUG meeting in Boston, USA in 2014, the invitation to the next biennial meeting in Greece was hard to pass by.

Held every two years, typically in the USA followed by a European venue, the choice of the Ormylia Foundation, Art Diagnosis Centre near Thessaloniki in Northern Greece was intended to offer conservators and conservation scientists, particularly in Eastern Europe, the opportunity to attend the conference and join the IRUG group.

The Ormylia Foundation is itself an interesting fusion of medical and art analysis. Situated in the hills just up from the beach resorts of Chalkidiki, it is both a medical centre, specialising in the diagnosis of women and children’s diseases and an art analysis centre, working on cultural projects of the region.

Apart from the spectacular location, the ambitious and on-going IRUG project to provide a platform for the sharing of knowledge and resources on infrared and Raman analysis of cultural materials, is a worthy one.

The difficulty of  characterising the variety of materials found in cultural objects is justified by the opportunities for discovery of new understandings of media. The micro-Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer, purchased by the Friends of Conservation at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2002 has transformed the way we work, perhaps more than any other analytical instrument in the lab. The technique is however dependent upon skills in sample preparation and most critically, spectra interpretation. This difficulty is compounded by the use of mixed and aged materials which are most often the types of materials we find in conservation. Membership of IRUG enables access to an unparalleled library of FTIR spectra and a growing Raman database of cultural material samples collected and made available by conservation colleagues from all over the world.

One of the focusses of the group over the last five years has been the development of a web-based membership application, achieved by  submitting at least ten infrared or Raman spectra for peer review and distribution to members, and an on-line searchable database. The conference in Boston in 2014 was an initial launch of this new facility, but it has taken the additional two years to test and enable full functionality. For those with an interest in joining visit http://irug.org/ and register and start submitting your spectra. The website also hosts the abstracts from recent and past conferences.

The Ormylia IRUG conference had a number of emerging interests. In particular, the increasing use of non-sampling and portable spectroscopy techniques. There were also a number of papers looking at scientific instruments, now subjects themselves for conservation and study. Gilt leather and parchment were the focus of several papers as were inks and photographs. The spectrographic indexing of 20th century plastics and coatings were well represented as well as a number of papers presented looking at degradation processes in pigmented paint films.

At the end of the meeting the venue for the next meeting was raised and the cry went out for Sydney. For the first time the IRUG group will be coming to the Southern Hemisphere. It will be an opportunity to build knowledge of spectroscopy and to showcase local research. Anyone interested in joining an organisation committee or with idea about how to make this a success are openly welcome. Otherwise we look forward to your participation in IRUG 2018.