National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property (NRLC), a subordinate office of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, was established in the year 1976 with the aim to develop, promote and advance the field of conservation of cultural property. It was started initially as a project under assistance of UNDP and UNESCO that helped in acquiring highly sophisticated scientific equipments and getting the staff trained abroad. Activities of the laboratory diversified and strengthened after shifting in its own building at Aliganj,Lucknow in 1987 and simultaneously opening its regional laboratory at Mysore. Since its inception, the laboratory has engaged in a program of scientific research, training activities, documentation, and with dissemination of information throughpublications, conferences, workshops and international cooperation. In addition, the laboratory has carried out many national field projects as well as international ones at Maldives to advanced conservation practice.
NRLC’s activities continue to emphasize research into the nature, decay and treatment of materials of collections, works of art etc. The work of the laboratory is carried out through groups; Research, Training, Field Projects, Information and Communications, Cooperation, Regional Conservation laboratories. Over the years, the staff of NRLC has developed expertise in a number of areas include; methodologies for the analysis of materials and their deterioration, conservation of wall paintings, biodeterioration and control, stone and building materials conservation, metal and paper conservation.
In the collaborative project of ASI and NRLC on protecting the monuments from algal infestation with reference to Khajuraho Temples (World Heritage Monument) taken for the study as a first case, brushing the stone surface with one per cent solution of three biocides namely, AG 2006016, WOSCOSEN 15TK and IMAZALIL- 500EC found very effective in controlling algal growth. It was also observed that the stone samples coated with Wacker SMK 1311 and BS -290 polymers were resistance to algal attack. Need to find out alternative to commonly used corrosion inhibitor, BTA (Benzotriazole) for copper and lead objects has been felt as it is reported as carcinogenic. NRLC initiated work in this direction and evaluated number of similar type of non-carcinogenic compounds and the results are quite encouraging. The need of replacing OPP (Orthophenylphenol), the commonly fungicide in starch paste was felt because of its ineffectiveness in too humid climate as well as high cost and takes a long time in procurement. On conducting laboratory tests and field trials, Benzalconium chloride, easily available and much cheaper than that of OPP, in 1-2 % in water or alcohol was found suitable. In another study on use of traditional materials in conservation, Menthol (peppermint), a natural plant extracts of Mentha species was found very effective against museum fungi and pests.
An important issue on authentication of Tagore’s paintings which came up with the court case filed in the High Court Kolkata was resolved conducting in depth examination and analysis taking advanced and sophisticated analytical instrument to the site such as, non-destructive techniques like portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and Fourier Transform IR spectrophotometer. Laboratory also extended its service in preparing condition reports on about 250 Tagore’s Paintings at Vishwa Bharati University to be taken for exhibitions abroad.
The new field projects were initiated under the field projects scheme of the laboratory during this year on conservation of paintings of Ravindra BharatiUniversity, Kolkata, Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai and Roerich works atVenkatappa Art Gallery (Devika Ravi Roerich Board) Bangalore. Similarly, the previous project works on the collections of Governor’s House, Simla and Governor’sHouse, Sikkim, Gangtok were completed. The interesting recent conservation work on Pure Gold, weight 300 gm, Sword Sheath of Raj Bhawan, UP, Lucknow where a team of conservators carried out conservation under CCTV camera. Conservators of this laboratory carried out successfully the difficult and challenging task of transferring of wall paintings from dilapidated structure at Zanskar Monastry,Ladakh and brought to NRLC Lucknow for conservation treatment and the paintings will be taken back to the Monastry after treatment.
With the possession of new building as planned during 11th five year plan for NRLC Training Institute in September 2011, existing training division of the laboratory got shifted there with more diversified plan. The seats for regular six months conservation course has been increased to 20 from 15. Apart from this course, number of short and long terms courses will be started from this year that will help in capacity building in the field of conservation of cultural heritage.