• The Research Agenda 2008-2012 includes  five research programmes focussing on collection-management. Their binding factor is ‘valuation’.

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  • Program

    Value and valuation

    Development of methods and techniques to objectify the value and appreciation of cultural heritage.

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    Under 'valuation' in relation to heritage we mean making substantiated and verifiable statements about the value of an object or a collection, based on a question falling under an appropriate frame of reference and concerning certain stakeholders. Predetermined and predefined criteria are applied.

    This explicit defining of an assigned value is necessary to steer preservation, development and utilisation and to enable a societal basis for heritage to emerge. After all, who determines the value of the collection now that the 'expert' no longer counts as the sole authority? How do you valuate an object or collection if there is no objective measurable value? How do you provide sufficient societal support for heritage at a time when the cultural sector is under pressure?


    The Value and Valuation programme aimed to make the various players in the heritage field (owners, managers, policy makers and funders) aware of the importance of the intrinsic (non-financial) value and valuation of cultural heritage, and to develop methods and techniques to attribute value to objects and collections. As valuation benefits from a broad interdisciplinary approach, the emphasis lay on dialogue and collaboration with external partners. A new system was developed in close consultation with the museum world to facilitate the process of value attribution. This has resulted in the publication of On the museum scales: collection valuation in six steps.

    Independent valuation

    This practical guide takes the user through the valuation process step-by-step and results in a description of object/collection significance, a valuation ranking or grouping, or an investment plan. With well-founded arguments it is possible to explain to others the value of an object or collection and the reasons for the value. This facilitates decision-making on interventions, making conflicting interests negotiable and making stories behind the collection accessible.

  • Program

    Collection Accessibility

    Research into the effectiveness of methods and means to make heritage and related knowledge accessible online.

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    New media forms a tempting alternative to traditional analogue guides for the public as staff and resources in museums are generally scarce. But do they function as well or better than gallery texts, guided or audio tours?

    Are some applications more effective than others? Are there any applications that actually generate more visitors, and if so, which?


    The Accessibility programme focused on the effectiveness of virtual resources to make heritage visible and to interest new types of public. Possibilities include apps, 3D and AR techniques, and also social media like Facebook and YouTube. But what to choose from the overwhelming number of new techniques?


    The RCE carried out an inventory to provide collection managers with an understanding of the developments and possibilities of new media (and the institutions that can assist in developing applications). This also aimed to chart the applications most effective for specific objectives for both content and generating visitors. The projects on which these questions were tested were diverse in nature:

    • Conservation of two textile objects of polypropylene. In this project, the practical applicability of conservation knowledge about polypropylene was tested. In addition a conservation treatment of polypropylene was recorded for educational objectives and the conservation file placed online. As a result, both the object and the information are permanently accessible for consultation by collection managers and conservators.
    • Imago revisited: research into two installations in a case study using good practice (developed during the Inside Installations project) regarding the daily and long-term management of complex (multimedia) installations.
    • Generating and sharing knowledge online about the conservation of contemporary art in the two-year European project PRACTICs by museums, institutes and universities. Associated with this was a public testing of the film Installation Art: Who Cares? as an educational tool, to investigate how much visitors appreciated having a look 'behind the scenes'.
    • CARTA project, an inventory of documentation projects and documentation systems with which research findings are linked to locations and artworks.
    • Inventory of the operation of two thematic networks (INCCA Education and Postdoc Network) under INCCA.
    • Archiving the website with all details of the Inside Installations project, the preservation and presentation of Installation Art Project (2004-2007), a research into the re-installation and documentation of 33 complex multimedia installations.
    • Participation of the RCE as a research partner in the pilot project of MuseumApp, under which the effectiveness of this app for heritage institutions was studied.
    • Development of guidelines to increase the effectiveness of museum institutions online.
  • Program

    Object in context

    Enrichment of the object in its context on the basis of technical art history and research, for the benefit of its conservation and restoration.

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    Objects that have been handed down to us from the past can tell a story of their history of creation and how they have changed over time.

    The Object in Context programme makes such stories accessible through research on the material object and its contextual clues (historical evidence). In addition, the program focuses on questions concerning the restoration and conservation of a range of objects, from classical antiquity to contemporary art, from paintings and textiles to metal and plastics.


    Under Object in Context, analytical chemistry researchers and forensic specialists delve into cause and effect. Besides a keen eye for detail, they employ a research laboratory and technological methods that enable the visualization of evidence visible only at a molecular level. Although analytical research often forms the basis for research, collaboration with other disciplines, such as art and cultural history, is always sought as well.

    Arts meets sciences

    A connecting link between the many projects under Object in Context is the extent to which ageing is regarded as acceptable. That limit of acceptance is subjective and cannot be considered purely from the material-technical perspective. Thus the theme of 'perception of the surface' is key in several projects. This involves coupling the scientific 'looking' through apparatus with subjective, human visual perception.

    Download here the comprehensive introduction to the Object in Context program, including an introduction to the projects in PDF.

  • Project

    European collaboration in the field of the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage.

  • Project

    Manufacture, consolidation, cleaning and use of plaster casts, models and objects.

  • Project

    Cleaning unvarnished painting surfaces from the 20th century.

  • Project

    The painting methods of Rembrandt's pupil, Govert Flinck.

  • Project

    Artist Interviews as an essential source of information for the conservation of contemporary art.

  • Project

    The inventory of damages and problematic situations of art in public spaces.

  • Project

    The use of natural dyes on textiles and furniture.

  • Project

    New Strategies in the Conservation of Contemporary Art.

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    The degradation and conservation of plastics.

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    How to conserve cellulose acetate (CA) art works, based on the case study of two plastic (CA) books.

  • Project

    Degradation of polyurethane (PUR) elastomers: research into properties, degradation and conservation treatments.

  • Project

    The conservation of art works of broken, transparent, unsaturated polyester and polymethyl methacrylate.

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    Preservation OPlastic ARTefacts in museum collections.

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    Influence of objective and subjective aspects in decision-making about the cleaning of objects.

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    Research into archaeologic and historic objects.

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    Fabrication techniques and conservation of archaeological metals.

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    Origin of red garnets in early medieval jewellery in the Netherlands.

  • Project

    Fabrication and origin of magnetic cannons, White Delft and a shipload of semi-finished articles.

  • Project

    Van Gogh's work process in the context of his time.

  • Project

    Mondriaan's Victory Boogie Woogie: his last work under the microscope.

  • Project

    Research into the history and application of early synthetic dyes.

  • Project

    Causes of water sensitivity in the oil paints of 20th century paintings.

    Modern unvarnished paintings can be susceptible to water, which is a problem when removing surface dirt. This project investigated the causes.

    Detail of Jasper Johns 'Untitled 1964-'65', collection SMA.

    Detail of Jasper Johns 'Untitled 1964-'65', collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

    In the 20th century, paintings were often unvarnished to allow the surface of the painted areas and their individual optical qualities to be expressed as much as possible.


    In addition to the natural changes that the surfaces of these paintings undergo, they are also susceptible to dirt accumulation, which is potentially problematic for their conservation. A major problem is the occurrence of water-sensitive paint surfaces.


    The project began with the question that Louise Wijnberg and Emily Froment of the Stedelijk Museum posed to the RCE about a work of Jasper Johns, Untitled 1964 - '65 from 1965. At first glance there seemed to be nothing wrong with the paint: good cohesion of oil paint and beautifully saturated colours. However in this work all colours, except for black and white, proved to be sensitive to aqueous solutions. Thus the paint would be removed along with the dirt while cleaning with a cotton swab and saliva or water.

    Well known

    Further investigation showed that this problem is well known to conservators of modern paintings; many more examples were found in interviews with conservators both in the Netherlands and abroad.


    Various paintings were investigated for the causes of this particular solvent sensitivity of the paint.  Not only works by Jasper Johns were investigated, but also works by Willem de Kooning and Karel Appel in Dutch collections and works by other artists, including Paula Rego and Francis Bacon. This led to a more fundamental research into the relationship between the fabrication of oil paint, ageing and changes in the surface.


    Ultimately, the water-sensitivity of Untitled 1964 - '65 and various other works were found to be caused by the formation of needle-shaped crystals of magnesium sulphate, which appeared as a white bloom on the surface. The discovery was related to two other issues. Firstly, many modern oil paints contain the filler magnesium carbonate. Secondly, due to air pollution between 1950 and 1990, a high concentration of sulphur dioxide arrived in the atmosphere. Magnesium carbonate paints react with sulphur dioxide to form magnesium sulphate.

    Further research

    The specific and common water-sensitivity of paints made with ultramarine could be partially explained by the fact that ultramarine is a hydrophilic pigment and has the tendency to degrade the binder. For other works, the water sensitivity is not yet fully explained: the research continues. The current theory is that the presence of the surface layer ('paint-medium skin'), also known as a patina, plays a role. This often fluorescent, greyish surface layer is found on many unvarnished paintings and is frequently susceptible to removal while cleaning.


    prev  /  next Anna Cooper samples water soluble surface crystals. Research on a work by Karel Appel. Reconstructed samples of the oil paint. Detail of Jasper John's Untitled 1964-'65. Oil paints of Winsor & Newton.


    Publicaties projecten 20e-eeuwse olieverf (Watergevoelige olieverf?! en Droge reiniging)

    Berg, K.J. van den, M. Daudin, I. Joosten, B. Wei, R. Morrison en A. Burnstock, 'A comparison of light microscopy techniques with scanning electron microscopy for imaging the surface cleaning of paintings', preprints of the Art 2008 conference, 25-30 May, Jerusalem (Jeruzalem), 2008.

    Berg, K.J. van den, C. Miliani, A. Aldrovandi, B.G. Brunetti, S. de Groot, K. Kahrim, M. de Keijzer, H. van Keulen, L. Megens, A.Sgamellotti en M.R. van Bommel, 'Technical analyses – Piet Mondrian’s working methods and materials in context', in: M. van Bommel, H. Janssen, R. Spronk (red.), Inside out Victory Boogie Woogie. A Material History of Mondrian's Masterpiece, Amsterdam University Press 2012, hst. 7, pp. 147-168.

    Berg, K.J. van den, M. de Keijzer, T. Learner, G. Heydenreich, J. Krueger, A. Burnstock en A. de Tagle e.a. (red.), Issues in Contemporary Oil Paints. Book of Abstracts of the Symposium, 28 and 29 March 2013, RCE (Amersfoort), 2013:  

    pp. 17-20: Berg, K.J. van den, ‘Introduction to the Symposium – the 20th Century Oil Paint Project’.
    pp. 24-26: Wijnberg, L., ‘Do we see what we know or do we know what we see? Conservation of Oil Paintings in the Stedelijk Museum’.
    pp. 39-41: Keijzer, M. de, ‘The Delight of Modern Pigment Creations’.
    pp. 44-46: Izzo, F.C., ‘Modern Oil Paints – Formulations, organic additives and degradation: some case studies’.
    pp. 64-65: Soldano, A. en K.J. van den Berg, ‘Investigation of the practical use of conductivity measurements on water-sensitive modern oil paintings’.
    pp. 66-67: Veríssimo Mendes, B., K.J. van den Berg, L. Megens, I. Joosten en M. Daudin, ‘New approaches to surface cleaning of contemporary unvarnished oil paintings – moist sponges and cloths’.
    pp. 83-84: Diependaal, H., e.a., ‘Tempera prepared by Otto Mueller circa 1917. Paint analysis and implications for conservation’.
    pp. 93-94: Burnstock, A., ‘Challenges at the interface between conservation practice and research’.  
    pp. 95-97: Cooper, A., A. Burnstock, K.J. van den Berg en B. Ormsby, ‘Water Sensitive Oil Paints in the 20th Century. A study of the distribution of water-soluble degradation products  in Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colour paint swatches, with case studies from Tate’s collection’.
    pp. 99-102: Sawicka, A., F.C. Izzo, K.J. van den Berg en A. Burnstock, ‘Metal Soap Efflorescence in Contemporary Oil Paintings’.
    pp. 118-120: Daudin-Schotte, M. en H. van Keulen, ‘Dry Cleaning: research and practice’.
    pp. 121-123: Volk, A., L. Wijnberg, M. Chavannes en K.J. Jan van den Berg, ‘Agar - a new tool for the surface cleaning of water sensitive oil paint’.

    Burnstock, A., K.J. van den Berg, S. de Groot en L. Wijnberg, 'An Investigation of Water-Sensitive Oil Paints in 20th Century Paintings', in: T. Learner (red.), Reprints of the Modern Paints Uncovered conference, London 2006, Getty (Los Angeles), 2008, pp. 177-188.

    Burnstock, A., E. Reissner, C. Richardson en K.J. van den Berg, 'Analysis of inorganic materials from paintings and watercolours by Paul Cézanne from the Courtauld Gallery using two methods of non-invasive portable XRF with light microscopy and SEM/EDX spectroscopy', in: Preprints of the Art 2008 Conference, 25-30 May, Jerusalem 2008.

    Goetz, E. en K.J. van den Berg, 'Verkennend analytisch onderzoek naar de wasverven van De Ploeg', Jaarboek de Ploeg (2006), Groninger Museum (Groningen), 2006.

    Hinde, L., K.J. van den Berg, S. de Groot en A. Burnstock, ‘Characterisation of surface whitening in 20th-century European paintings at Dudmaston Hall, UK’, in: J. Bridgland (red.), ICOM Committee for Conservation 16th Triennial Meeting, Lisbon 2011, paper nr. 1310.

    C. Miliani, K. Kahrim,B.G. Brunetti, A. Sgamellotti, A. Aldrovandi, M.R. van Bommel, K.J. van den Berg en H. Janssen, ‘MOLAB, a mobile facility suitable for non-invasive in-situ investigations of early and contemporary paintings: the case-study of Victory Boogie Woogie (1942-1944) by Piet Mondrian’, in: ICOM Committee for Conservation 15th Triennial Meeting, New Delhi 2008, pp. 857-864.

    Mills, L., A. Burnstock, S. de Groot, L. Megens, M. Bisschoff, H. van Keulen, F. Duarte en K.J. van den Berg, ‘Water sensitivity of modern artists’ oil paints’, in: ICOM Committee for Conservation 15th Triennial Meeting, New Delhi 2008, pp. 651-659.

    Morrison, R., A. Bagley-Young, A. Burnstock, K.J. van den Berg en H. van Keulen, 'An investigation of parameters for the use of citrate solutions for surface cleaning unvarnished paintings', Studies in Conservation 52 (2007), pp. 255-270.

    Rosi, F., A. Burnstock, K.J. van den Berg, C. Miliani, B.G. Brunetti en A. Sgamellotti, ‘A non-invasive XRF study supported by multivariate statistical analysis and reflectance FTIR to assess the composition of modern painting materials’, in: Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy 71:5 (2009), pp. 1655-1662.

    Shimadzu, Y., K. Keune, J.J. Boon, J.H. Townsend en K.J. van den Berg, ‘Saponification reduces the light reflectivity of lead and zinc white pigmented paint layers thus changing the appearance of the picture’, in: ICOM Committee for Conservation 15th Triennial Meeting, New Delhi 2008, pp. 626-632.

    Soldano, A., Investigation of the practical use of conductivity measurements on water-sensitive modern oil paints, internal rapport RCE, juli 2010.

    Wijnberg, L., K.J. van den Berg, A. Burnstock en E. Froment, 'Jasper Johns’ Untitled, 1964-’65', ArtMatters (2007) 4, pp. 68-80.

    Wijnberg, L., K.J. van den Berg, A. Burnstock, ‘Watergevoelige olieverfschilderijen: werkwijze van Jasper Johns en Karel Appel’, kM 66 (2008), pp. 23-26.

    Wijnberg, L. E. Bracht, K.J. van den Berg, M. de Keijzer en H. van Keulen, ‘A study of the grounds used by three post-war American Artists (1954-1974): Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly and Brice Marden’, in: J. Bridgland (red.), ICOM Committee for Conservation 16th Triennial Meeting, Lissabon 2011, paper nr. 1324.





    Klaas Jan van den Berg

    Team members

    Henk van Keulen, Ineke Joosten, Luc Megens, Suzan de Groot, Zeph Benders


    Laura Mills, Hannah Tempest, Genevieve Silvester, Anna Cooper


    Aviva Burnstock (Courtauld Institute, Londen), Louise Wijnberg (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam), Tom Learner en collega’s (Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles), Bronwyn Ormsby (Tate Modern, Londen)

  • Program


    Quantitative research on composition, use and policies concerning museum collections.

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    In the museum sector, procedures and processes of collection management are analysed using figures and indicators to only a limited extent. As a result, decisions are often based on impressions or tradition.

    Ad hoc quantitative analyses have been performed in recent years. Again and again it has proved difficult to generate reliable figures.


    When comparing museums it was also revealed that the number of variables arising form an almost insurmountable barrier for benchmarking. The RCE therefore opted for a structural, long-term program with the focus on a statistical approach to research questions concerning collection management.


    Under the Museometry programme, quantitative research is conducted on the composition, use and exploitation of museum collections. Trends and developments are distilled from the collected facts and figures on museum collections (museometry). The resulting figures and analyses are made available for the museum professionals and managers responsible for museum collections. In turn, they use this quantitative data for the formulation of various policies concerning these collections. In this way museometry contributes to evidence-based management (EBM) in the museum sector.


    Projects under this program include:

    • The Loan Monitor: a website that visualises on a map loan movements between national and international museums for exhibitions.
    • The Modern Art Collection Audit (CMBK), a statistical analysis of how Netherlands museums have collected modern art from 1999 to 2009. The database, comprising acquisition data from about 40 museums with relevant collections of modern art, makes statistically based statements possible about the collection policy of the museums.
    • The 20th century Artist Index, in which major artists are inventoried from the period 1870 to the present.
    • Completion and verification of available data on international collection mobility, accessibility and cultural participation arising from the implementation of the indemnity scheme.
    • An inventory and analysis of museum annual reports.
  • Program

    Collection Risk Management

    A user-friendly method for heritage managers to assess and manage risks themselves.

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    The Collection risk management (CRM) program is aimed at minimizing the loss of value at the interface between preservation and use. The existing CRM methodology has been tested in different situations, developed and simplified in order to bring it within reach of smaller institutions with limited time and resources.

    To this end, new instruments were developed and information necessary to quantify the various risks was generated and made available in the convenient form of a digital manual. The program concluded with an international meeting on risk management.


    Risk management examines all the threats to which collections are exposed and combines preventive conservation, security and facility management. This forms the next step in the professionalization of collection preservation and management. In applying this strategy, the risks for a collection are identified, analysed and evaluated. These risks can then be compared on the basis of the expected value loss over a given period (risk assessment) and ranged to set priorities for measures to reduce this loss of value. This aids the collection manager in making informed and substantiated choices in the deployment of the often limited resources available to collection management.


    Under the CRM program, the methodology was tested in case studies, courses and workshops, then further developed and simplified so that smaller institutions with limited time, resources and knowledge can also gain insight into their own situation. To this end knowledge must be generated to qualify or quantify the various risks and ultimately made available in a usable form. This process was carried out in a number of projects under the program. Knowledge development and deployment of the indemnity scheme also fell under this program. The field of security risks and calamities was covered in collaboration with the Safe Heritage programme.


    The before-mentioned knowledge and instruments are for the most part collated in the Digital Collection Risk Management Manual. This describes the methodology step-by-step, provides instruments for conducting a risk analysis and sets out the available information on the ten most important damage factors. In this way, the user is able to carry out a risk analysis with their team. The Manual helps in formulating the right questions for external experts.

    Risk analysis

    Two projects under the program were intended to generate data to aid in assessing risk scenarios and to determine extent of risk. On the one hand quantitative information was collected for events that could lead to loss of value (damage factors of fire, theft and vandalism, mechanical forces and water), and on the other, degradation processes (damage factors of climate, light, mechanical forces vibration and air pollution/dust). In addition, a model was developed under the Cost Effectiveness project for determining the cost-effectiveness of conservation measures.

    Research on Paper

    Finally the Metamorfoze project (National Programme for the Conservation of Paper Heritage) sought solutions for the preservation and treatment of original paper documents. The research focused on inherent deterioration such as ink corrosion, the usefulness (or uselessness) of air purification in depots and the development of a portable instrument for the on-the-spot determination of light sensitivity of objects.

    The CRM programme concluded in 2012 with the meeting Reducing Risks to Heritage in collaboration with ICCROM and CCI.