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Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage

A special issue of Applied Sciences (ISSN 2076-3417). This special issue belongs to the section "Applied Biosciences and Bioengineering".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 July 2021) | Viewed by 35156

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Guest Editor
VICARTE Research Unit, Department of Conservation and Restoration, NOVA School of Science and Technology (FCT NOVA), 2829-516 Caparica, Portugal
Interests: preventive conservation; cultural heritage; biocides; biodiversity; biodeterioration
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1. Centre for Functional Ecology, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3000-456 Coimbra, Portugal
2. Fitolab, Laboratory for Phytopathology, Instituto Pedro Nunes, 3030-199 Coimbra, Portugal
Interests: mycology; biodeterioration; cultural heritage; genetics; phytopathology
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
HERCULES Laboratory, University of Évora, Largo Marquês de Marialva 8, 7000-809 Évora, Portugal
Interests: ecology; microbiology; environmental microbiology; PCR; cloning; microbial ecology; minerals; geochemistry; bacteria; fungi

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Guest Editor
HERCULES Laboratory, Institute for Advanced Studies and Research, University of Evora, 7000-809 Evora, Portugal
Interests: conservation and restoration; parchment studies; biocodicology; DNA; metagenomics; proteomics
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue on “Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage” aims to cover all the latest outstanding developments of biological and biochemical methods that have been developed and applied to cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage biodiversity has received much research attention in recent years. This Special Issue intends to provide a comprehensive examination of the science of biology and its practical application for the preservation of cultural heritage. In this issue, research papers or reviews on all aspects of biological causes, modes of action, biocidal treatment, and protection and prevention of cultural heritage are welcome, as well as biodeterioration of cultural heritage studies. Analysis and testing of macro- and microorganisms affecting the preservation of cultural heritage are also welcome.

The knowledge that has arisen from studies of biology applied to the cultural heritage area may be translated into new conservation and restoration treatments.

This issue addresses researchers from both academia and industry, working in microbiology and biotechnology.

This Special Issue does not include theoretical bioinformatics, medical microbiology or phytopathological microbiology.

Prof. Dr. Maria Filomena Macedo
Prof. Dr. António Portugal
Dr. Ana Miller
Dr. Ana Catarina Pinheiro
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Applied Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • cultural heritage
  • biology
  • biochemical
  • conservation and restoration
  • preservation
  • treatment
  • biocides
  • biodiversity
  • biodeterioration

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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5 pages, 201 KiB  
Editorial
Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage
by Maria Filomena Macedo, Ana Zélia Miller, Ana Catarina Pinheiro and António Portugal
Appl. Sci. 2022, 12(2), 841; https://doi.org/10.3390/app12020841 - 14 Jan 2022
Viewed by 1424
Abstract
This Special Issue of the Applied Sciences, entitled “Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage” aimed to cover all the latest outstanding progress of biological and biochemical methods developed and applied to cultural heritage [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)

Research

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32 pages, 24056 KiB  
Article
Atlas of Micromorphological Degradation of Archaeological Birch Bark
by Johanna Klügl and Giovanna Di Pietro
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(18), 8721; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11188721 - 18 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2549
Abstract
In this paper we present an atlas of micromorphological degradation of archaeological birch bark for the first time. We analysed the morphology of 13 samples extracted from ice-logged, waterlogged and cave-retrieved objects dated from the Neolithic to the Middle Age by means of [...] Read more.
In this paper we present an atlas of micromorphological degradation of archaeological birch bark for the first time. We analysed the morphology of 13 samples extracted from ice-logged, waterlogged and cave-retrieved objects dated from the Neolithic to the Middle Age by means of light microscopy (LM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). We then compared their morphology to that of a contemporary sample, both intact and decayed. In all samples, 13 morphological characteristics that can be associated with fungal, bacterial, chemical, mechanical and light degradation are defined and described, and example LM and TEM images are provided. This novel atlas provides conservator-restorers a much-needed tool to relate the macroscopic appearance to the microscopic structure of birch bark objects. The most important macroscopic features allowing estimation of the state of preservation at the cell level are colour changes, loss of pliability, presence of delamination and increased brittleness. Colour change and delamination can be connected to microscopic features, and microscopic analysis can trace whether they were caused by biotic, chemical or physical decay. However, increased brittleness cannot be connected to a specific microscopic feature. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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11 pages, 1998 KiB  
Article
The Efficiency of Biocidal Silica Nanosystems for the Conservation of Stone Monuments: Comparative In Vitro Tests against Epilithic Green Algae
by Flavia Bartoli, Martina Zuena, Armida Sodo and Giulia Caneva
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(15), 6804; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11156804 - 24 Jul 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2008
Abstract
In the last decade, worldwide research has focused on innovative natural biocides and the development of organic and inorganic nanomaterials for long-lasting reliability. In this work, the biocide effects of two different biocides encapsulated in two different silica nanosystems for a multifunctional coating [...] Read more.
In the last decade, worldwide research has focused on innovative natural biocides and the development of organic and inorganic nanomaterials for long-lasting reliability. In this work, the biocide effects of two different biocides encapsulated in two different silica nanosystems for a multifunctional coating have been performed through in vitro tests, by using Chlorococcum sp. as a common stone biodeteriogen. Zosteric sodium salt (ZS), a green biocide, was compared with the commercial biocide, 2-mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT), widely used in the treatment of cultural heritage. The analyzed systems are the following: silica nanocapsules (NC) and silica nanoparticles (MNP) not loaded with biocides, two nanosystems loaded with ZS and MBT, and free biocides. The qualitative and quantitative evaluations of biocide efficiency were performed periodically, analyzing pigment autofluorescence to discriminate between active and inactive/dead cells. The analyses showed multiple differences. All the nanocontainers presented an initial reduction in chlorophyll’s autofluorescence. For the free biocide, the results highlighted higher efficiency for MBT than ZS. Finally, the nanosystems loaded with the different biocides highlighted a higher activity for nanocontainers loaded with the commercial biocide than the green product, and better efficiency for MNP in comparison with NC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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17 pages, 13280 KiB  
Article
Black on White: Microbial Growth Darkens the External Marble of Florence Cathedral
by Alba Patrizia Santo, Oana Adriana Cuzman, Dominique Petrocchi, Daniela Pinna, Teresa Salvatici and Brunella Perito
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(13), 6163; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11136163 - 2 Jul 2021
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 3876
Abstract
Weathering processes seriously affect the durability of outdoor marble monuments. In urban environments, a very common deterioration phenomenon is the dark discoloration or blackening of marble. This paper describes a multidisciplinary study on the state of conservation of white marbles of the Florence [...] Read more.
Weathering processes seriously affect the durability of outdoor marble monuments. In urban environments, a very common deterioration phenomenon is the dark discoloration or blackening of marble. This paper describes a multidisciplinary study on the state of conservation of white marbles of the Florence Cathedral and the microbial community involved in their deterioration. The study is focused on the widespread dark discoloration of marble analyzed in two differently exposed sites of the Cathedral. It aims to provide information useful for future interventions to control the microbial growth. By chemical and petrographic analysis, in situ and ex situ microscopy, and cultivation and identification of microorganisms, it was found that (i) the darkening is mainly due to the growth of black fungi and dark cyanobacteria and (ii) the state of conservation of marble and the growth pattern of microorganisms seems to be linked to the microclimatic conditions, in particular to solar radiation exposure. This is the first report on the lithobiontic community inhabiting the Florence Cathedral marbles, with a more detailed investigation of the culturable mycobiota. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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15 pages, 2227 KiB  
Article
Impact of Herbicide Treatments on the Construction Materials in the Roman Wall of Lugo, Spain (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
by Beatriz Prieto, Patricia Sanmartín, Javier Cancelo-González, Lucía Torres and Benita Silva
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(11), 5276; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11115276 - 7 Jun 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2667
Abstract
Combined laboratory and field research examining the possible alterations caused by herbicide treatments applied to the construction materials (schist and some granite, bound with mortar) in the Roman wall of Lugo (NW Spain), declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2000, was [...] Read more.
Combined laboratory and field research examining the possible alterations caused by herbicide treatments applied to the construction materials (schist and some granite, bound with mortar) in the Roman wall of Lugo (NW Spain), declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2000, was performed in three separate studies in the past 20 years. In the summers of 1998 and 1999, the herbicides glyphosate, sulphosate and glufosinate–ammonium, as well as physical treatments (infrared and burning) were separately applied to different areas of the wall. In the spring of 2016, the oxyfluorfen herbicide Goal Supreme® was applied to test areas. In the winter of 2018, three essential oils, Origanum vulgare L., Thymus zygis Loefl. ex L., and Thymus vulgaris L., were each applied to test areas. Mineralogical modifications in the materials (determined by X-ray diffraction analysis), as well as visible physical changes, such as colour changes, and the appearance of saline residues were evaluated after the treatments. In the 1998/9 trial, glyphosate and both physical treatments triggered changes in the vermiculite clay minerals in the schists, and the physical treatments also caused changes in the kaolinite. None of the treatments caused highly perceptible colour changes. The oxyfluorfen herbicide did not cause any mineralogical alterations in the construction materials, but it did generate an increase in chloride, nitrate and sulphate contents of the granite and a slight darkening of this material. In the most recent study, the only deleterious effect observed was a perceptible increase in lightness and reduction in the yellow component after the application of Thymus zygis Loefl. ex L. essential oil to granite. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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12 pages, 1639 KiB  
Article
Inhibitory Effect of Cinnamaldehyde on Main Destructive Microorganisms of Nanhai No. 1 Shipwreck
by Xinduo Huang, Yeqing Han, Jing Du, Peifeng Guo, Yu Wang, Kaixuan Ma, Naisheng Li, Zhiguo Zhang, Yue Li and Jiao Pan
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(11), 5262; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11115262 - 5 Jun 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2202
Abstract
Nanhai No. 1, a shipwreck in the Southern Song Dynasty, China, has a history of more than 800 years. It was salvaged in 2007 and is now on display in the Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum. Due to the fact that the hull [...] Read more.
Nanhai No. 1, a shipwreck in the Southern Song Dynasty, China, has a history of more than 800 years. It was salvaged in 2007 and is now on display in the Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum. Due to the fact that the hull is a wooden cultural relic and exposed to the air, the biological corrosion and biodegradation caused by microorganisms are key problems of hull protection. At present, the antimicrobial agent Euxyl® K100 (isothiazolinone) has a significant antimicrobial effect in the field, but it has a certain negative impact on the environment and archeologists. In order to reduce the use of chemical antimicrobial agents, we evaluated the inhibitory effects of cinnamaldehyde on the main destructive microorganisms of Nanhai No. 1. Cinnamaldehyde is the main active component of cinnamon, and has broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties. The paper diffusion method, gas diffusion method and minimum inhibitory concentration experiment were used to detect the inhibitory effects of cinnamaldehyde on the main microorganisms of Nanhai No. 1. We found that cinnamaldehyde had significant inhibitory effects on Bacillus tequilensis NK-NH5, Bacillus megaterium NK-NH10, Bacillus velezensis NK-NH11, Bacillus sp. NK-NH15, Bacillus sp. NK-NH16, Bacillus sp. NK-NH17, Fusariumsolani NK-NH1 and Scedosporiumapiospermum NK.W1-3. At the same time, cinnamaldehyde had more inhibitory effects on fungi than bacteria. Finally, we verified that cinnamaldehyde can effectively inhibit the growth of microorganisms in water, for storing the scattered wood blocks of the Nanhai No. 1 hull through laboratory simulation experiments. Cinnamaldehyde, as an environment-friendly antimicrobial agent, is of great significance to protecting water-saturated wooden relics from microbial corrosion and degradation in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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21 pages, 2996 KiB  
Article
Role of Exposure on the Microbial Consortiums on Historical Rural Granite Buildings
by Elsa Fuentes, Rafael Carballeira and Beatriz Prieto
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(9), 3786; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11093786 - 22 Apr 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2123
Abstract
Local granite has been used throughout history in Galicia (NW Spain), forming the basis of much of the region’s architecture. Like any other rock, granite provides an ecological niche for a multitude of organisms that form biofilms that can affect the physical integrity [...] Read more.
Local granite has been used throughout history in Galicia (NW Spain), forming the basis of much of the region’s architecture. Like any other rock, granite provides an ecological niche for a multitude of organisms that form biofilms that can affect the physical integrity of the stone. In this study, for the first time, characterization of the microbial consortium forming biofilms that developed on historical rural granite buildings is carried out using a combination of culture-dependent and next generation sequencing (NGS) techniques. Results pointed to differences in biofilm composition on the studied rural granite buildings and that of previously analyzed urban granite buildings, especially in terms of abundance of cyanobacteria and lichenized fungi. Exposure was corroborated as an important factor, controlling both the diversity and abundance of microorganisms on walls, with environmental factors associated with a northern orientation favoring a higher diversity of fungi and green algae, and environmental factors associated with the west orientation determining the abundance of lichenized fungi. The orientation also affected the distribution of green algae, with one of the two most abundant species, Trentepohlia cf. umbrina, colonizing north-facing walls, while the other, Desmococcus olivaceus, predominated on west-facing walls. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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23 pages, 4857 KiB  
Article
Diversity of Biodeteriorative Bacterial and Fungal Consortia in Winter and Summer on Historical Sandstone of the Northern Pergola, Museum of King John III’s Palace at Wilanow, Poland
by Magdalena Dyda, Agnieszka Laudy, Przemyslaw Decewicz, Krzysztof Romaniuk, Martyna Ciezkowska, Anna Szajewska, Danuta Solecka, Lukasz Dziewit, Lukasz Drewniak and Aleksandra Skłodowska
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(2), 620; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11020620 - 10 Jan 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2904
Abstract
The aim of the presented investigation was to describe seasonal changes of microbial community composition in situ in different biocenoses on historical sandstone of the Northern Pergola in the Museum of King John III’s Palace at Wilanow (Poland). The microbial biodiversity was analyzed [...] Read more.
The aim of the presented investigation was to describe seasonal changes of microbial community composition in situ in different biocenoses on historical sandstone of the Northern Pergola in the Museum of King John III’s Palace at Wilanow (Poland). The microbial biodiversity was analyzed by the application of Illumina-based next-generation sequencing methods. The metabarcoding analysis allowed for detecting lichenized fungi taxa with the clear domination of two genera: Lecania and Rhinocladiella. It was also observed that, during winter, the richness of fungal communities increased in the biocenoses dominated by lichens and mosses. The metabarcoding analysis showed 34 bacterial genera, with a clear domination of Sphingomonas spp. across almost all biocenoses. Acidophilic bacteria from Acidobacteriaceae and Acetobacteraceae families were also identified, and the results showed that a significant number of bacterial strains isolated during the summer displayed the ability to acidification in contrast to strains isolated in winter, when a large number of isolates displayed alkalizing activity. Other bacteria capable of nitrogen fixation and hydrocarbon utilization (including aromatic hydrocarbons) as well as halophilic microorganisms were also found. The diversity of organisms in the biofilm ensures its stability throughout the year despite the differences recorded between winter and summer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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Review

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16 pages, 9463 KiB  
Review
Biodeterioration of Glass-Based Historical Building Materials: An Overview of the Heritage Literature from the 21st Century
by Maria Filomena Macedo, Márcia Gomes Vilarigues and Mathilda L. Coutinho
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(20), 9552; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11209552 - 14 Oct 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2024
Abstract
The main goal of this work was to review the 21st century literature (2000 to 2021) regarding the biological colonisation and biodeterioration of glass-based historical building materials, particularly stained glass and glazed tiles. One of the main objectives of this work was to [...] Read more.
The main goal of this work was to review the 21st century literature (2000 to 2021) regarding the biological colonisation and biodeterioration of glass-based historical building materials, particularly stained glass and glazed tiles. One of the main objectives of this work was to list and systematize the glass-colonising microorganisms identified on stained glass and glazed tiles. Biodiversity data indicate that fungi and bacteria are the main colonisers of stained-glass windows. Glazed tiles are mainly colonised by microalgae and cyanobacteria. Several studies have identified microorganisms on stained glass, but fewer studies have been published concerning glazed tiles. The analysis of colonised samples is a vital mechanism to understand biodeterioration, particularly for identifying the colonising organisms and deterioration patterns on real samples. However, the complexity of the analysis of materials with high biodiversity makes it very hard to determine which microorganism is responsible for the biodeteriogenic action. The authors compared deterioration patterns described in case studies with laboratory-based colonisation experiments, showing that many deterioration patterns and corrosion products are similar. A working group should develop guidelines or standards for laboratory experiments on fungi, bacteria, cyanobacteria, and algae on stained glass and glazed tiles. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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18 pages, 915 KiB  
Review
Bioconservation of Historic Stone Buildings—An Updated Review
by Benjamín Otto Ortega-Morales and Christine Claire Gaylarde
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(12), 5695; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11125695 - 19 Jun 2021
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 4113
Abstract
Cultural heritage buildings of stone construction require careful restorative actions to maintain them as close to the original condition as possible. This includes consolidation and cleaning of the structure. Traditional consolidants may have poor performance due to structural drawbacks such as low adhesion, [...] Read more.
Cultural heritage buildings of stone construction require careful restorative actions to maintain them as close to the original condition as possible. This includes consolidation and cleaning of the structure. Traditional consolidants may have poor performance due to structural drawbacks such as low adhesion, poor penetration and flexibility. The requirement for organic consolidants to be dissolved in volatile organic compounds may pose environmental and human health risks. Traditional conservation treatments can be replaced by more environmentally acceptable, biologically-based, measures, including bioconsolidation using whole bacterial cells or cell biomolecules; the latter include plant or microbial biopolymers and bacterial cell walls. Biocleaning can employ microorganisms or their extracted enzymes to remove inorganic and organic surface deposits such as sulfate crusts, animal glues, biofilms and felt tip marker graffiti. This review seeks to provide updated information on the innovative bioconservation treatments that have been or are being developed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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24 pages, 1901 KiB  
Review
Current Knowledge on the Fungal Degradation Abilities Profiled through Biodeteriorative Plate Essays
by João Trovão and António Portugal
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(9), 4196; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11094196 - 5 May 2021
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 3183
Abstract
Fungi are known to contribute to the development of drastic biodeterioration of historical and valuable cultural heritage materials. Understandably, studies in this area are increasingly reliant on modern molecular biology techniques due to the enormous benefits they offer. However, classical culture dependent methodologies [...] Read more.
Fungi are known to contribute to the development of drastic biodeterioration of historical and valuable cultural heritage materials. Understandably, studies in this area are increasingly reliant on modern molecular biology techniques due to the enormous benefits they offer. However, classical culture dependent methodologies still offer the advantage of allowing fungal species biodeteriorative profiles to be studied in great detail. Both the essays available and the results concerning distinct fungal species biodeteriorative profiles obtained by amended plate essays, remain scattered and in need of a deep summarization. As such, the present work attempts to provide an overview of available options for this profiling, while also providing a summary of currently known fungal species putative biodeteriorative abilities solely obtained by the application of these methodologies. Consequently, this work also provides a series of checklists that can be helpful to microbiologists, restorers and conservation workers when attempting to safeguard cultural heritage materials worldwide from biodeterioration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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17 pages, 917 KiB  
Review
Biologically Derived Gels for the Cleaning of Historical and Artistic Metal Heritage
by Arianna Passaretti, Luana Cuvillier, Giorgia Sciutto, Elodie Guilminot and Edith Joseph
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(8), 3405; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11083405 - 10 Apr 2021
Cited by 28 | Viewed by 4171
Abstract
In the general global rise of attention and research to seek greener attitudes, the field of cultural heritage (CH) makes no exception. In the last decades, an increasing number of sustainable and biologically based solutions have been proposed for the protection and care [...] Read more.
In the general global rise of attention and research to seek greener attitudes, the field of cultural heritage (CH) makes no exception. In the last decades, an increasing number of sustainable and biologically based solutions have been proposed for the protection and care of artworks. Additionally, the safety of the target artwork and the operator must be kept as core goals. Within this scenario, new products and treatments should be explored and implemented in the common conservation praxes. Therefore, this review addressing metal heritage is aimed to report biologically derived gel formulations already proposed for this specific area as reliable tools for cleaning. Promising bio-gel-based protocols, still to be implemented in metal conservation, are also presented to promote their investigation by stakeholders in metal conservation. After an opening overview on the common practices for cleaning metallic surfaces in CH, the focus will be moved onto the potentialities of gel-alternatives and in particular of ones with a biological origin. In more detail, we displayed water-gels (i.e., hydrogels) and solvent-gels (i.e., organogels) together with particular attention to bio-solvents. The discussion is closed in light of the state-of-the-art and future perspectives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Biology to Cultural Heritage)
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