84094 - Physical Methods for Cultural Heritage

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course aims at introducing the most common non-destructive diagnostic techniques in the field of conservation and restoration of restauration of the cultural heritage. The student, at the end of the course, is able to plan an appropriate diagnostic protocol and to appraise the feasability and correctness of the use of every technique in the propaedeutical phase of planning of the conservative interventions and restauration, and to interpret the diagnostic results obtained by laboratory analyses .

Course contents

The scientific methods applied to the study of cultural heritage are shown through the analyses of case studies on different artefacts and materials. The objective of the course is the knowledge of the different techniques applyable to the conservation of objects (of historic-artistic, arcaheological, library interest) for the analyses of the constituent materials and of the production techniques and as a basic tool for the conservative interventions. At the end of the course the student is able to plan a diagnostic investigation by individuating the aims, the methods, the techniques and by evaluating the ratio cost/benefit of the analyses.

Diagnostic techniques:
optical techniques
radiographic techniques
termographic techniques

Chemical, Physical, Mineralogical Analyses.
microscopy techniques
spectroscopic techniques
nuclear techniques
thermal analyses

Basic of dating methods (dendrochronology, radiocarbon, thermoluminescence)

Microclimate analyses and control for the conservation of artefacts

Case studies on different types of artefacts (archaeological, historic-artistic, writing supports)


Teaching materials are availabe at IOL https://iol.unibo.it

A. Aldrovandi, M. Picollo, Metodi di documentazione e indagini non invasive sui dipinti, Padova, Il Prato, 2001.

S. Volpin, L. Apollonia, Le analisi di laboratorio applicate ai beni artistici policromi, Padova, Il Prato, 1999.

M. Milazzo, N. Ludwig, Misurare l'arte. Analisi scientifiche per lo studio dei beni culturali, Bruno Mondadori, Milano, 2010.

L. Paolillo, I. Giudicianni, La Diagnostica nei Beni Culturali. Moderni Metodi di Indagine, Loghìa, Napoli, 2009. 

G. Artioli, Scientific Methods and Cultural Heritage: An introduction to the application of materials science to archaeometry and conservation science, Oxford University Press, 2010

E.Ciliberto, G. Spoto (editors), Modern Analytical Methods in Art and Archaeology, New York, Wiley Intescience, 2000;

A. Castellano, M. Martini, E. Sibilia (a cura di), Elementi di archeometria. Metodi fisici per i beni culturali, Milano, Egea, 2002.

Istituto per i Beni Artistici Culturali e Naturali della Regione Emilia-Romagna. Servizio musei e Beni Culturali (a cura di), Oggetti nel tempo: principi e tecniche di conservazione preventiva, Bologna, Clueb, 2007.

Note: The volumes are reference texts. The exam should not be prepared by thoroughly studying the reference texts, but by individuating some subjects of interest for the student.

Teaching methods

Oral lectures introduce theory and objective of the discussion of  laboratory experiences. When possible, experiences will be conducted with groups of students in the laboratory.Exam of case studies.

Assessment methods

The student is invited to present a case study in a written form (report) or in oral form with a power point presentation to be publicly discussed with other students. The presentation, organised in sections (introduction to the object/site of interest, aims and questions, methodology of study, multidisciplinar interest) is advisable, although not compulsory. The student can alternatively choose a traditional oral exam (questions/answers) regarding the whole theaching program.

The student's ability to learn how to operate with confidence and autonomy within the secondary literature and the possession of a language and forms of expression appropriate to the discipline will be assessed. The acquiring of an organic view of the topics discussed in class, along with their critical consideration, a demonstration of mastery and mature expression will be recognized with good marks or excellence. Knowledge, mostly mnemonic of the subject matter, non-articulated synthesis and analysis, and/or language does not always lead to the appropriate marks ranging from discreet to sufficient. Important gaps in training, inappropriate use of language, lack of orientation within the boundaries of the topics and the bibliographic materials proposed by the course will inevitably lead to a barely sufficient grade or a negative rating.

Teaching tools

Teaching materials in the form of pdf files is available at https://iol.unibo.it/ and reserved to the students of the course.

Some of the instrumental facilities of the Diagnostic Laboratory at the Department of Cultural Heritage are available for experiences (http://www.beniculturali.unibo.it/it/laboratori/laboratorio-diagnostico-per-i-beni-culturali).

Objects of archaeological, historic-artistic and library interest (relics, paintings, books,...)

Office hours

See the website of Mariangela Vandini