The relationship between the arts/art objects and the environment is a delicate one.  Through time, art objects inevitably undergo chemical and consequent physical changes from exposure to agents of deterioration — light, temperature, humidity, and oxygen (Hornbeck 52).  In modern art, the materials are much more problematic for conservators because of the lack of understanding about how the new materials will react overtime.  When the agents of deterioration are multiplied, for example, an object being exposed to both elevated temperature and light, the combined objects trigger a chemical reaction that results in faster deterioration.

     When it comes to archaeological artifacts, the influence of nature/environment is of even greater importance (Remazeilles, C., Conforto, E.   110). Nature plays a dominant role on the type of the corrosion products formed by the corrosion process.  Determining what the products are is very important to diagnosing the state of the degradation and choosing the appropriate steps for preservation.

      The unearthing of a very rare Roman inkwell in a small maritime village in France, underscores the impact that the natural environment can have on a precious piece of antiquity (Remazeilles, C. & Conforto, E.  111). The excavation site was in the middle of the fields where cereals were cultivated.  An analysis of the object showed the corrosion was a result of the interaction between the metallic allow and residues of agricultural fertilizers and soil amendments, extensively used for decades in the field. 

     It is intersting that an attempt to uncover how the environment triggerd changes in an artifact uncovered how man’s behavior impacted nature.  It was found that the treatment of the soil (through the use of fertilizers) was the key factor for corroding the inkwell.   This is a great reminder that the actions of man on the environment have long term consequences.   If fertilizers have corrosive effects on metal, what type of impact does it have on drinking water?  It is most definitely food for thought! 

Works Cited

Hornbeck, S. E. (2009).  A Conservation Conundrum: Ephemeral Art at the National Museum of African Art.  African Arts 42(3), 52-61.

Remazeilles, C., Conforto, E.  (2008).  A Buried Roman Bronze Inkwell: Chemical interactions with agricultural fertilizers.  Studies in Conservation 53, 110-117.

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