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Friday, May 17 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(Collection Care) Application of Silver Nanoparticle Sensors for Silver Objects and Photography Collection Storage

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In recent years we reported a novel optical sensor based on silver nanoparticles and several applications in art conservation. The sensors are thin layers of silver nanoparticles (average diameter around 10 nm) deposited on a glass cover slip. Because of its large surface area versus volume, reactions on silver nanoparticle surfaces can occur quickly, making the sensor very sensitive, because of its strong optical absorbance and bright yellow color, evaluation of the extent of nanoparticle reaction can be easily done with visual inspection and quantitative spectral measurement, because it is composed of silver, it signals the potential risks to silver metal from pollutants in ambient air or off-gassing from housing and shipping materials. The sensor has been demonstrated to be useful as a substitute for silver metal coupons in Oddy tests and as an indicator of pollutants in the micro-environments created inside cases for Daguerreotypes. Here we reported an application of the silver nanoparticle sensor to monitor the air quality in metals storage for silver objects and photography storage for gelatin silver prints and daguerreotypes. Using a portable UV-vis spectrometer, the reactions of the silver nanoparticles could be monitored on site. In the first case study, the air quality inside display and storage cabinets for silver objects at the Margaret and Angus Wurtele Study Center of the Yale University Art Gallery was evaluated. These cases use a dedicated active ventilation system designed to purify the supply air and condition it to 30% RH before delivering it to the cases. To assess the cleanliness of the air and its safety for the silver objects, silver nanoparticle sensors were placed into a metal storage cabinet and a glass display case as well as in the room outside the cases for comparison. After 5 weeks the sensor response demonstrated that the ventilation system had maintained a much cleaner ambient condition inside those cases than in the surrounding room. After corrosion intercept and silica gel were introduced into those cases, another evaluation with the silver nanoparticle sensors showed the air cleanliness inside the cases was further improved. In the second study, the air quality was assessed in rooms at the Yale University Art Gallery that were currently used for photography storage as well as in other spaces into which those collections were to be moved. Silver nanoparticle sensors were deployed in those areas and measured after 1 week and 5-week exposures. The evaluation showed that air quality in the current photography storage rooms was similar to that in the study center described above, and the level of reactive air pollutants in the planned future storage rooms was not substantially greater than in the current storage rooms. Silver nanoparticle sensors were also used to assess air quality and safety in photography storage cases – solander boxes. Overall, the silver nanoparticle sensors have proven to be rapid, inexpensive screening tools that can be used to identify hazardous air quality environments and to compare environments intended for the storage and display of silver objects and photography collections.


Rui Chen

Senior Conservation Scientist, Aging Diagnostic Laboratory, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University
Rui Chen received her B.S. & M.S. in organic chemistry and engineering and Ph.D. in polymer chemistry and physics in China. She was a postdoc in the University of the Western Cape (South Africa) and in the University of Oregon for studying late transition metal complexes, catalytic... Read More →

avatar for Elena Torok

Elena Torok

Assistant Objects Conservator, Dallas Museum of Art
Elena Torok is the Assistant Objects Conservator at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), where she works on the treatment, research, and long-term care of the collection. She earned her M.S. from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2013 with concentrations... Read More →
avatar for Paul Whitmore

Paul Whitmore

Director, Aging Diagnostic Laboratory, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University
Paul Whitmore was trained as a chemist, earning a B.S. in chemistry from Caltech and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. He has worked in cultural heritage science for his entire professional career, starting at the Environmental Quality Laboratory... Read More →

Friday May 17, 2019 11:00am - 11:30am EDT
Salon A2-A3, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Collection Care
  • Track Collection Care
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Rui Chen, Elena Torok, Paul Whitmore
  • Abstract ID 19092
  • Tags silver nanoparticle sensor,silver objects,photography,air quality,pollutants,storage safety,display cases,storage cases