Friday, October 16, 2009

Scientists using X-rays to help conservation of York Minster

X-rays are being used on parts of York Minster in an effort to protect the historic building from further erosion. Researchers are using the equipment to find out how badly the Minster's limestone structure has decayed. The results will be used to help advise conservation experts how further decay can be avoided.

"This project is about a problem with York Minster," explains Dr. Kate Giles of York University. "The building is hundreds of years old and it has been eroding over centuries, and over those centuries lots of people have repaired it and we are just the latest phase of repair and restoration.

"Science is helping us on the east front of York Minster because we’ve been able to observe over the past few decades and even centuries, the that magnesium limestone, the stone from which York Minster is made, but we’ve never been able to look at that in microscopic detail."

Researchers are using an X-ray photoelectron spectrometer to explore the limestone in microscopic detail to study the salt deposits and other compounds contained within it that can cause the stone to erode. The work is helping to advise conservation experts how best to treat the stone to prevent further decay and what materials to use in the current restoration of the Minster’s East Front.

Dr Karen Wilson of the University of Cardiff explains the impact of the work: “This work is very important for society because by advising the key people involved in the conservation of such historic buildings we can ensure the survival of these beautiful architectures for future generations.”

This video explains in more detail the project, which is co-funded by the the Universities of York and Cardiff:

The first Minster was built for the baptism of the Anglo Saxon King, Edwin of Northumbria in 627 and has been rebuilt and enlarged over the centuries. This Minster was completed in 1472 and restoration work has been ongoing ever since as stonemasons work their way around the structure to restore decayed and weathered limestone.