Culture Heritage Microorganisms

Microorganisms growing on objects of historic and artistic value can cause serious esthetical spoiling and decay of material up to a complete loss of an object: Algae, lichen, bacteria, archaea and fungi discolor surfaces and form dark crusts on materials; valuable stone objects are corroded by organic acids; fungi and bacteria inhabit fresco and secco wall paintings, oil and canvas paintings and cause grave damage due to the degradation of binders and other organic components; under certain climatic conditions all organic materials including leather, textiles, wood and paper turn into optimal culture media for microorganisms. Moreover, contaminated objects in museums can seriously threat the health of personnel, visitors and restorers. 


What we do:

  • We carry out microbiological analysis of contaminated objects based on the possibilities given by the object and taking into account its historic and artistic value. Non-invasive and minimal-invasive sampling are applied for microbiological analyses. The methods applied vary from isolation and cultivation to genetical fingerprinting techniques (DGGE) and metagenomic analysis.
  • Based on the quantification and characterization of the microbial contamination we provide information on the destructive-potential towards the object and the risk-potential for human health.
  • In close collaboration with restorers we develop object-specific concepts for the sustainable removal of microbial contamination and for the prevention of new infection. This can include climatic concepts but also the choice of an appropriate biocide treatment.
  • We investigate museum rooms and depots and give advice for suitable climatic conditions and measures for decontamination.
  • We test materials as rock, artificial stone, plaster, paint and coatings concerning their bio-adhesive potential. To this aim we use a microbial-community mixture (Material Test Mix, MTM) that was specially assorted to predict the susceptibility of different materials to microbial colonization and spoiling.  
  • We host the Cultural Heritage Microorganisms - CHM - Catalogue.