As a museum with a primary focus on technology, we have to face material-oriented questions and find material-oriented solutions for the study and preservation of our cultural heritage. The research department for materials science uses its equipment, facilities and chemical and physical methods of analysis to conduct both strategic basic research and applied research on the characterization of materials and material properties. We analyse materials from historic sites and monuments which have been damaged by environmental forces, recording and quantifying external influences on material surfaces, examining material-specific reactions, and developing suitable detection methods. When analysing material found in archaeological excavations, we focus on the characterization and the origin of the finds. The main emphases of the research department for materials science are therefore research, development and consultation activities, which are provided as services to all the research departments of the DBM, the museum itself, and also external clients.
In the research department of materials science, interest is focused on material-oriented solutions for the preservation and study of our cultural heritage. We examine virtually all inorganic materials to establish their chemical, structural and physical composition, choosing a suitable preparation and method depending on the research question and the constitution of the sample. The research department has a variety of equipment which is particularly important for projects in mining archaeology and archaeometallurgy.
To evaluate the condition of materials, we record environmental impacts and develop analytical procedures. Here the focus is on methods for estimating the durability of materials in specific stress situations – especially environmental stresses such as freeze-thaw alternation, substantial temperature fluctuations, salt contamination or excess moisture. In the case of material that has already been damaged, we test preserving agents, examining to what extent they have a stabilizing effect and reduce further deterioration. We have already been able to provide extensive object-oriented findings on coating systems for both mineral and metallic materials – the most common materials in the mining industry. There is also an increasingly urgent need to investigate other groups of materials, e.g. plastics and organic materials, which are present in various objects from the DBM’s collections.
The entire spectrum of the analyses we carry out is also used by external clients. These include universities, non-university research institutions, companies and private individuals.
In the Materials Laboratory we carry out chemical analyses and various physical methods of measurement. These provide information on the characterization of materials and material properties. The equipment and testing methods of the Materials Centre are provided as services to the research departments of the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, the museum itself, and external clients.
- The preservation of the saltpetre mining sites Santa Laura and Humberstone in Chile (UNESCO World Heritage Sites)