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Mechanical electrostatic cleaning and digitization of culturally valuable objects in a single step

Worldwide Innovation: Interdisciplinary research at the HAWK and the support of the German Environment Foundation (DBU - Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt) make it possible

A new mobile system designed for the cleaning of culturally valuable objects contaminated with fine dust and mold has been put into trial operation at the HAWK University Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen. This represents a successful advancement of the mechanical electrostatic cleaning technology originally used at the Erfurt/Gotha University and Research Library to treat maps contaminated with fine dust from the Justus Perthes collection.

The new machine is considerably more compact than the prototype. Instead of the original eight meters in length and two meters in width, it now measures only three by 1.30 meters, while still affording the full functionality of the prototype and even surpassing it in terms of performance. It is still able to clean large formats up to 1.10 meters in width on both sides and also includes an option for digitizing the information at the same time. This work, which was done separately and by different departments in the past, can now be done in a single step and takes only a few minutes. In addition, the electrostatic charge can be increased by a factor of five, which significantly improves the cleaning performance. The equipment is ready to go right after it is plugged in; it works on the regular power-supply network and operates relatively quietly, no louder than a regular photocopier. It will be available on the market once the test runs and the corresponding studies have been successfully completed.

Under the supervision of Prof. Ulrike Hähner and Prof. Dr. Karin Petersen from the HAWK Faculty of Architecture, Engineering and Conservation, in cooperation with the developer and designer of the paper-cleaning machine, Dipl.-Ing. Ernst Becker (in cooperation with manufacturer LTK Lineartechnik Korb), the Lower Saxony State Archive Hannover under the direction of Dr. Bernd Kappelhoff, the Von Veltheim Foundation Helmstedt under the direction of Mechthild von Veltheim, the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology at the HAWK under the direction of the Vice-President for Research and Transfer, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Viöl, as well as research assistants Julia Schultz, Doreen Weiß, Nils Mainusch and Barbara Rittmeier, it took the team just one year to successfully complete the new prototype. The inventors of the technology are Prof. Dr. Gerhard Banik from the University for Applied Arts in Vienna and Dipl.-Ing. Ernst Becker. The team received valuable help and support from Prof. Banik during the entire time.

The aim of the test runs to come is to ensure that the system can be used safely for cleaning and digitizing the ten kilometers of shelves of documents contaminated with microbiological material in the Lower Saxony State Archive in Hannover. These test runs also include contaminated textile fragments from the Von Veltheim Foundation Helmstedt and historical photographs. The tests for using this system for photographs will be done in cooperation with the study program for Conservation and Restoration of Graphics, Archive and Library Assets of the State Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart under the direction of Prof. Dr. Irene Brückle.

Further studies focus on health protection and work safety, the quantity work flow to be developed for mold damages and quality control for the cleaning process. In this case, the aim is to ensure an even, complete removal of the fine, loose, harmful particles, most of which are not visible to the naked eye. In addition, it is essential to prevent any negative effects on the surfaces, such as the roughening of the materials, substance and information loss and the circulation of spores and dust. There is not yet any standardized quality control process in place for restoration. Plans have been made to develop such quality control measures during this project and a following one. The Historical Archive of the City of Cologne will also be involved in the project for the efficient, yet gentle cleaning of their archives, much of which have been extensively damaged by fine alkaline construction dust. The German Environment Foundation has encouraged the project group to continue their work in this field.

Students at the HAWK also profit from the widely diverse, interdisciplinary research and development work; they are actively involved and the findings are communicated in the study programs. The research findings and the new system will be presented to the archives, libraries and museums in 2013.

idw :: 21.11.2012