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Minerals 2018, 8(2), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/min8020040

Pyrite Decay of Large Fossils: The Case Study of the Hall of Palms in Padova, Italy

1
Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, National Research Council, Corso Stati Uniti 4, 35127 Padova, Italy
2
Museum of Geology and Palaeontology, Padova University Museums Centre, Via Giotto 1, 35121 Padova, Italy
3
Museum of Mineralogy, Padova University Museums Centre, Via Giotto 1, 35121 Padova, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 November 2017 / Revised: 16 January 2018 / Accepted: 18 January 2018 / Published: 25 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mineralogical Applications for Cultural Heritage)
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Abstract

Pyrite decay is arguably the major problem in geological and palaeontological conservation, as it can cause total destruction in valuable specimens. Various methods have been devised since the 19th century to treat and prevent it with different degrees of success. Nevertheless, the conservation of large fossils at risk of pyrite decay remains an unsolved issue, because a feasible method for maintaining them in a controlled microclimate that is suitable for specimens on public display has remained elusive. This paper describes the study carried out to investigate the alterations that developed in a large fossil palm of the collection of the Museum of Geology and Palaeontology in Padova (Italy), already treated for pyrite decay several years before. Results of X-ray powder diffraction and Raman spectroscopy performed on samples collected from that fossil palm confirmed that the alterations were due to pyrite decay. The microclimate indoors (inside showcases and in the Hall itself) and outdoors was monitored for one year to investigate its possible relation with the damage observed. The measured thermo-hygrometric conditions exceeded the recommended thresholds for the prevention of pyrite oxidation and indicated the fossils were at high risk of damage from that process. This study demonstrates that treatment alone is not sufficient for the conservation of fossils at risk of pyrite decay and that it can be ineffective without a proper management of the microclimatic conditions under which the fossils are preserved. View Full-Text
Keywords: pyrite decay; fossil palm; paleontological collection; microclimate; preventive conservation pyrite decay; fossil palm; paleontological collection; microclimate; preventive conservation
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Becherini, F.; Del Favero, L.; Fornasiero, M.; Guastoni, A.; Bernardi, A. Pyrite Decay of Large Fossils: The Case Study of the Hall of Palms in Padova, Italy. Minerals 2018, 8, 40.

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