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Microfading (Metamorfoze)

Development of a portable instrument to determine the light sensitivity of objects.

The aim of this 'micro-fading' project was to develop an instrument for determining the light sensitivity of museum objects: portable and useable anywhere to carry out measurements directly on the original.

Participants of the Microfading Expertmeeting in 2009.

Participants of the Microfading Expertmeeting in 2009.

In museums, archives and libraries the importance of making collections accessible through exhibition is increasingly being recognized. However, the exhibition of valuable objects increases the risk of damage caused by exposure to light. Colours can fade, while paper can become more yellow. This leads to an altered appearance and loss of value, and exactly of the most important objects in our collections.


Current industrial tests for the determination of the light fastness of materials are unsuitable for use on valuable originals. Moreover an indirect estimation of light fastness, based on the chemical identification of the used dyes or pigments, has its limitations. The micro-fading technique could offer a possible outcome. With this technique, a light-ageing test can be carried out on a very small area (~ 0.25 mm2) of the object surface by means of fibre optics.


Various researchers worldwide are experimenting with micro fading. However, despite significant advances several barriers appear to stand in the way of applying the technique to exhibition situations. A user-friendly, portable and reliable instrument would assist curators to identify light-sensitive objects, prevent the inefficient rotation frequency of exhibits and to light exhibitions more attractively. To that end, a prototype of a new and robust optical design has been developed through this project.