18 December 2008
Environmental control in galleries and museums is a necessity and is informed by the knowledge of ongoing processes of deterioration which can threaten the integrity and stability of artworks. Invisible dimensional changes in many works of art occur following environmental fluctuations as materials respond to the changes in humidity and temperature. The constant influence of dimensional changes usually remains invisible until displacement generates visible deterioration and irreversible damage. This paper exploits fully non contact coherent interferometry in a sequential masking procedure for visualising and studying surface deformation which is the direct effect of dimensional alterations induced by humidity changes. Surface deformation during dimensional displacements of constituent materials may occur on any artwork within an unstable environment. In this context, the presented research study explores the diagnostic potential of fully non contact sensors for the direct structural assessment of environmental effects as they occur in real time on works of art. The method is employed to characterise material responses, complementing and improving understanding of material behaviour in unstable environments.