Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Microbiological and structural investigations of biologically damaged textiles from Slovenian museums

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
7.00.00  Interdisciplinary research     

Code Science Field
B230  Biomedical sciences  Microbiology, bacteriology, virology, mycology 

Code Science Field
2.05  Engineering and Technology  Materials engineering 
biodegradation, fungi, textile, museum, enzymes, sanitation methods
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (17)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  36302  Petra Bešlagić  Interdisciplinary research  Researcher  2013 - 2014  245 
2.  24290  PhD Matej Butala  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2013  231 
3.  25518  PhD Miha Črnigoj  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2014  43 
4.  12571  PhD Andrej Demšar  Engineering sciences and technologies  Researcher  2011 - 2014  259 
5.  14907  PhD Marko Frelih  Humanities  Researcher  2011 - 2014  347 
6.  25974  PhD Cene Gostinčar  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2012  306 
7.  05935  PhD Nina Gunde-Cimerman  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2011 - 2014  1,200 
8.  31457  PhD Katja Kavkler  Engineering sciences and technologies  Researcher  2011 - 2014  466 
9.  20395  PhD Tina Kogej  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2011 - 2012  62 
10.  34810  Mojca Matul    Technical associate  2012 - 2014  41 
11.  20545  MSc Anamarija Motnikar  Engineering sciences and technologies  Researcher  2011 - 2014  52 
12.  20788  PhD Lejla Pašić  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2013  87 
13.  28079  PhD Polonca Ropret  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2011 - 2014  277 
14.  23963  PhD Silva Sonjak  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2011  58 
15.  19719  PhD Črtomir Tavzes  Biotechnical sciences  Researcher  2011 - 2014  189 
16.  16103  PhD Polona Zalar  Medical sciences  Head  2011 - 2014  442 
17.  07042  PhD Darja Žgur Bertok  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2013  440 
Organisations (4)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  65,827 
2.  0622  Slovene Ethnographic Museum  Ljubljana  5052653000  3,591 
3.  1555  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engeneering  Ljubljana  1627074  20,534 
4.  2316  Institute for the protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia  Ljubljana  1423215  3,680 
Many important cultural heritage objects are at risk of microbial deterioration. Almost no material is inert to microbial attack. Among microorganisms, fungi are the main deteriorative agents of historical objects, including textiles typically consisting of most susceptible organic materials. The presented study deals with biodegraded historical and archaeological textiles and gathers an interdisciplinary team of professionals including museum curators, textile restorers, microbiologists/mycologists, textile researchers, biologists and chemists able to recognize and solve problems of deterioration of valuable cultural heritage objects by adopting last advances in different fields. Nano, micro and macro technologies are used to investigate the problem, diagnose the agents and develop correct approaches to invert or slow down the long-term reactions caused on the materials necessary for the preservation of the historical textiles for the next generations. Modern microbiological, structural and chemical methods will be applied to reach new standards of documentation. Specifically, modern non-destructive analytical methods will be used. Air, the main vector for the transmission of fungal propagules, will be for the first time monitored for fungi in Slovenian museums. Fungi will be detected on textile objects by classical culturing and by DNA based approaches. Optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, Fourier transform spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and mechanical testing, like measurement of the textile tensile strength will provide information on structure modifications potentially due to fungal degradative processes. The activity of specific degradative enzymes will be determined in pure cultures for the most aggressive fungi, as determined by analysis of laboratory (artificially aged, inoculated) specimens. Up-to date and already established methods of sanitation of infested textile objects with fungi will be tested and compared in the laboratory on artificially aged textiles infested with selected fungal species. If sampling the historical objects cannot be avoided, methods will be optimized before to limit the damage caused to historical specimens. A new biological approach of destaining fungal melanins present on textiles due to fungal infestation and which are not removed by sanation methods will be implemented by employing enzymes from wood decomposing fungi able to degrade lignocellulose substrates. The de-staining processes will be followed by sophisticated methods analyzing the structural properties of textile. The conclusive results of this research project will be: (i) sanitation of selected museum objects with the most appropriate method recognised in this study, (ii) guidelines for the preservation of textile materials in museums, (iii) new possible parameters for early detection of fungi presenting risk for textile, as well as of biodegradation on textile objects caused by fungi.
Significance for science
Suggested project studied the historical textile stored in Slovenian museums. Textiles are mainly composed of organic materials, which are due to its structure biodegradable, therefore their preservation presents a unique specialty. The research was clearly interdisciplinary and contributed to the development of different scientific fields and professions. The main contribution was to the often scientifically disregarded conservation field. Projects main objective was to find methods for prevention of fungal growth in museums and additionally to find methods for remedy of the appearance of objects, which is of great importance for the museum objects. One of the tasks of the proposed project was a selection of a method or a combination of them, which causes least structural and visual changes to the objects and is still effective in total removal of viable structures and possibly in prevention of further growth. Based on our results we have concluded that there is no universal procedure to achieve this, but that solving these problems depends on materials as well as on the contaminant. If the contaminants are sensitive to oxygen depletion, the best method is anoxy method, which is a standard method implemented in museums. In case of non-sensitive fungi on oxygen depletion (in our case 3 of 5 studied), other, more invasive methods have to be used, as for example gamma irradiation, which can harm the textile itself. The success of the selected method is not guaranteed if the most important storage conditions are not maintained, mainly relative air humidity, which should not be higher than 60 %. Additionally, the research provided further knowledge on museum mycoflora and the information about fungi that can endanger the objects and those which cause only visible changes. The list of contaminant fungal genera and species to textile artefacts is big and has its main reservoir in air and dust. The research pointed out a specialised group of fungi infecting museum textile objects, so called xerophilic fungi, which are due to their special culturing necessities often overlooked. Non-culturing methods, which we have used (metagenomics based on selected marker gene and DGGE analyses of specific gene regions from total DNA), have well overcame these problems, but especially former is due to high costs not yet routinely used. For the first time FTIR method was used in studying damages of textile due to fungal attack. The performed analyses on laboratory samples, contemporary and artificially aged textile samples, allowed interpretation of historical textile condition. This is important since the method is non-invasive and can be done on small sample size. The project in this extent is probably one of the first worldwide. Although many similar investigations have been carried out on paper objects, there are no reports in the literature of such an extensive study on historical textiles, as performed within this research. The study included detection of fungal contamination and its consequent structural changes and remedy methods for fungal disinfection on textile museum objects. The project bridged the gaps in knowledge that will enable optimizing the management of museum textiles. Original results of the proposed research will and already contributed to the development of science in some fields (mycology, textiles, restoration, conservation, protection of cultural heritage), all the latest findings have been and will be published in international scientific literature. Selected themes have been presented in the scientific and technical journals. Research has been presented at national and international scientific and professional conferences and in this way contributed to the discussion and exchange of views in the scientific community, which is a prerequisite for the successful development of science.
Significance for the country
The proposed project was consistent with the thematic focus of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology for the allocation of budgetary resources (Resolution on the National Research and Development Programme for the period 20062010 (ReNRRP)) "technology for a sustainable economy” and “developing understanding of humanity, national identity and visibility, to understand the modern Slovenian history and to preserve the rich natural and cultural heritage, including research of the Slovenian language”. The topic of the research, therefore, was fitting in the strategy development at national and international level. The results of the project did strengthen the Slovenian and European research area and collaboration with foreign institutions (Institute Ruđer Bošković, Zagreb, Croatia; Danish technical university, Lyngby; BOKU, Austria) and with this the bilateral bonds and allow access to foreign knowledge. The project implementation did contribute to the perception of the interdisciplinary approach importance related to protection of our cultural heritage. Working with historical objects gives evidence of past human societies, which is important to raise public awareness about history. The project team of this project consisted of experienced as well of young scientists coming from four different institutions. The development and dissemination of monitoring and analytical methods in the view of cultural heritage protection and maintenance allowed contacts with the world scientific community in all areas of the research involved in the project. It is also necessary to stress that there are two academic institutions (Biotechnical Faculty and Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering) involved in the proposed project. This ensured that the knowledge, acquired in the course of the project's research activity, has been directly incorporated in the education processes in the fields of textile sciences as well as in microbiology. The obtained knowledge has partly already been implemented into the education programs of the second Bologna level at the Academy of fine arts and design, program conservation-restoration, where a new subject, entitled Practicum in microscopy partly addressed also topics studied in the project. Two master students of Microbiology have been involved in the project, but have not yet finished the study. The so called Bologna process of restructuring has just completed one generation of students, and several programmes were revised at the Biotechnical Faculty, in order to increase faster flow of information from research into teaching practice. Therefore, the researchers, who are also higher education pedagogues, had used the best opportunity to include the findings of the research, conducted at the proposed project, into Bologna process of course restructuring. Although art restorers and natural scientists work hand-in-hand in the majority of European countries, such collaborations have been established in Slovenia only recently. In Slovenia, we occasionally witness significant microbiological problems on museum objects that may have developed because of improper storage conditions (relative humidity, temperature). The involvement of experienced microbiologists is here very important because fungi and bacteria also threaten the health of restorers and museum visitors. The collaboration of microbiologists and restorers is essential for the successful remediation of art objects. The finished project established co-operations between the participating institutions and worked on actual as well as new research techniques for contamination detection and for determination the rate of degradation of textile materials. The researchers have contributed to popular debate on the issue in the form of radio and television events closer to the public. The research findings have also been given to direct users as conservators-restorers, which is an important connection of this profession to natural sciences.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2011, 2012, 2013, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2011, 2012, 2013, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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