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Microscopy for the Identification of Pigments and Fibers in Art and Artifacts


In this course, students will learn the necessary skills for the visual characterization and identification of artists’ materials by polarized light microscopy (PLM). The emphasis will be on the proper use of the microscope for the analysis of common paint pigments, textile fibers, and rock-forming minerals. Students will also learn sampling procedures and the use of flowcharts and keys to determine a positive identity for a wide variety of modern and historic materials. This one-week course is intended for amateur or professional conservators, art historians, and materials science enthusiasts. No prior microscopy experience is necessary.

The course is based on lectures, demonstrations, and laboratory practice. Each student learns each technique by hearing about it, watching it being done, and then doing it. Video is used extensively for macro- and micro-projection in both lecture and demonstrations. Each student is assigned a polarized light microscope and all necessary accessories, reagents, and text materials.

This course will be held at the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies in Mount Carroll, IL