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LabS TECH: a successful network of Laboratories on Science and Technology for the Conservation of European Cultural Heritage

Nowadays research in conservation science is a very active field in Europe due to the increasing value attributed by each nation to the preservation of its artistic and historical heritage.

The results that have been collected until now, have contributed to the significant preventtion or reduction of damages to cultural properties in each country. However, great gains can be expected in the future by increasing research cooperation among European conservation institutions and laboratories, and by sharing of their expertise, know-how and resources. The European network LabS TECH (Laboratories on Science and Technology for the conservation of the European Cultural Heritage) is working in this direction since January 2001 and succeded in becoming an excellent example of multi-national research co-operation in the field. Its program of activities has been developed with the consciousness that effective coordination and pooling of resources represent an important step towards the realisation of a productive European research area in the field. LabS TECH is a European Infrastructure Cooperation Network financed by the European Commission within Improving Human Potential Programme (IHP) in the Fifth Framework Programme (1999-2002) and it has been coordinated by the Inter-university Consortium on Science and Technology of Materials, INSTM, Italy. This cooperation network LabSTECH groups eleven prestigeous European laboratories working in the field of scientific and technological applications to cultural heritage. Their mission has focused on finding and implementing solutions to problems of common interest and seeding new transnational collaborations. Within the network, the participating institutions have been called to develop joint activities (rational use of European resources, materials and methods in conservation, data archiving, etc.) with the final goal to: promote access to the most advanced European facilities and know-how, foster exchange of know-how and operators, discuss and propose standards, spread good practices in conservation, diffuse the highest level of research The network has gathered the expertise of excellent European institutions guaranteeing the participation of a full range of institutional facilities, the diffusion of the access to the most advanced techniques, the interchange of knowledge, the development of potential new applications and services, but also it has offered the opportunity to better identify and prioritize European research needs, which could then be developed and implemented. A contribution in this direction has been given by a Survey on the existing European resources in the field of Science for Conservation elaborated by LabS TECH to collect information on personnel, know-how and instrumental facilities of 163 [cambiare in: 108 ]qualified laboratories (list is available on the project website (http://www.chm.unipg.it/chimgen/network/lbtech/WEBSURVEY_files/frame.htm) http://www.chm.unipg.it/chimgen/network/lbtech/ListLab.html In the framework of the network, Perugino (Pietro Vannucci, 1450-1523) and its painting techniques represented an interesting study-issue faced with a twofold objective: to carry out a comparison of results among institutions and to contribute to the reconstruction of the painting technique of the painter by the analysis of a large number of paintings. Perugino painting technique has been the object of the workshop The painting technique of Pietro Vannucci, called il PERUGINO which revealed technical aspects of the Master paints never identified before such as the frequent use of powdered glass in red lakes, the use of powdered metals as pigments, the use of a particular brown ochre with zinc impurities which can allow for discriminating works of the last period from the first ones, etc. Moreover, many IR reflectographies and stratigraphies allowed the identification of several pentimenti that indicate that the painter was continuously modifying the original drawings and colours to achieve the best results ,( http://www.chm.unipg.it/chimgen/network/lbtech/perugino.htm). ,Particular attention was also dedicated by LabS TECH to discussions on analyses of organic substances in artworks. The need was originated by the fact that a large number of different organic materials are used in artwork manufacturing and the methods used for their identification are often very different in the various laboratories. ,The idea of organizing the Workshop on Binding Media Identification in art objects originated from the findings of the Survey on Binding Media Identification that was conducted within the framework of the LabS TECH project (http://www.chm.unipg.it/chimgen/LabS-TECH.html). The main goal of the survey was to identify the more reliable and frequently adopted methodologies/strategies (including sampling, instrumental analysis, data treatment and interpretation). LabS TECH has been a successful example of Infrastructure Cooperation Network in the V Framework Programme and has already found its first echo in a new project funded in the VI Framework Programme (EU-ARTECH, Access Research and Technology for the conservation of Cultural Heritage); in fact some of the LabS TECH partners have choosen to make of the previous joint activities only a starting point and to go further in the development of a fabric of research infrastructures of the highest quality and performance in Europe and their optimum use on a European scale. At a few weeks from the conclusion of LabS TECH the coordinator of the network, Prof Brunetti of the University of Perugia, Department of Chemistry, states that an effective coordination among existing qualified laboratories is an important first step to be successful in the building of a European Research Area. The activities of the LabS TECH Network can certainly be considered a solid platform on which the science for conservation of our cultural heritage can flourish.,