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Tuesday, May 17 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(Research and Technical Studies) Investigation of Fogging Glass Display Cases at the Royal Ontario Museum

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This presentation will describe the scientific investigation of fogging on glass display cases at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). This is a serious problem, affecting many museums around the world with post-2000 display cases. At the ROM, most of the glass panels that exhibited fogging were from display cases installed in 2005-2008 as part of a major renovation at the museum. In some instances, panels showing the heaviest fogging were situated next to panels showing very little or no fogging, and on some panels the fogging revealed conveyor belt and suction cup patterns. Initial efforts to clean the fogging from the glass using commercial cleaning products were temporarily successful, but were unable to remove persistent greasy residues on the glass. The fogging returned within a year, even after multiple cleaning treatments. The fogging occurred on both the inner and outer surfaces of glass panels, in cases with and without climate control, and in cases containing all types of artifact materials. In 2012, a project was developed and initiated by the ROM and the CCI whereby 21 panels from 16 display cases in 10 galleries were sampled on both inner and outer surfaces. Additionally, three panels exhibiting varying degrees of fogging were removed from display cases for testing. Analysis at the CCI was undertaken using several analytical techniques, including: pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), x-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS). The composition of the glass panels was determined to be normal for soda lime glass. The fogging residues were found to be composed mainly of sodium salts of organic compounds (such as sodium lactate and sodium salts of fatty acids) and other sodium salts (such as sodium sulfate and sodium chloride). The source of the sodium in the residues was likely the glass itself. Off-gassing experiments with paints and a floor finish used at the museum determined that those products were not likely contributing to the fogging. Rather, it was concluded that the organic acids and inorganic anions that formed the salts likely originated from normal volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter in the air. The formation of the fogging patterns on the display cases was greatly exacerbated by the presence of greasy material on the surface of the glass. This consisted predominantly of hydrocarbon lubricants that were transferred from machinery used in the manufacture of the glass and were not successfully removed before the installation of the display cases. Because of the variation in surface cleanliness, panels with a relatively high abundance of greasy material appeared to be heavily fogged while others with a lower abundance appeared to be unfogged. A cleaning protocol using Synperonic A-7 surfactant was tested on the three glass panels that were removed. SEM imaging of the panels before and after cleaning showed that a 200:1 solution of water and surfactant was sufficient to remove all traces of fogging, cleaning and manufacturing residues from the surfaces of the glass.

avatar for Helen Coxon

Helen Coxon

Senior Conservator, Preventive Conservation, Royal Ontario Museum
Helen Coxon has a B.A. in General Arts and a Diploma in Archaeological Conservation, both from the University of Durham in the UK. She joined the Royal Ontario Museum as an objects conservator in 1987, and in 2006 became the ROM’s first Preventive Conservator, focussing on environmental... Read More →
avatar for Jennifer Poulin

Jennifer Poulin

Senior Conservation Scientist, Canadian Conservation Institute
Jennifer Poulin earned a B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry from Acadia University in 1992 and a Master’s degree in Analytical Chemistry, specializing in gas chromatography, from Dalhousie University in 1995. She has worked in the analysis of natural products since 1996 and began work at... Read More →


Jason Anema

Conservation Scientist, Canadian Conservation Institute
Jason Anema earned a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Manitoba and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Victoria. Since he joined the Canadian Conservation Institute in 2012, Jason has been working on materials analysis for a variety of museum objects, especially 19th-century... Read More →
avatar for Kate Helwig

Kate Helwig

Senior Conservation Scientist, Canadian Conservation Institute, Canadian Conservation Institute
Kate Helwig has an honours B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry from Stanford University in California. She studied artifact conservation at Queen’s University and received a Master’s Degree in Art Conservation in 1992... Read More →
avatar for Marie-Claude Corbeil

Marie-Claude Corbeil

Manager, Conservation Science Division, Canadian Conservation Institute
Marie-Claude Corbeil earned a B.Sc. in Chemistry from University of Montréal. She then specialized in Inorganic Chemistry and Crystallography and completed, at the same university, a Master's program in 1984 and a Ph.D. program in 1987. In 1988, she joined the Analytical Research... Read More →

Tuesday May 17, 2016 11:00am - 11:30am EDT
Room 511 B/E