Feasibility of removing surface deposits on stone using biological and chemical remediation methods
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The study was conducted on alterations found on stone artwork and integrates microbial control and a biotechnological method for the removal of undesirable chemical substances. The Demetra and Cronos sculptures are two of 12 stone statues decorating the courtyard of the Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento (Italy). An initial inspection of the statues revealed putative black crusts and highlighted the microbial contamination causing discoloration. In 2006, the Cultural Heritage Superintendence of Trento commissioned us to study and remove these chemical and biological stains. Stereomicroscopy characterised the stone of the sculptures as oolitic limestone, and infrared analyses confirmed the presence of black crusts. To remove the black crusts, we applied a remediation treatment of sulphate-reducing bacteria, which removes the chemical alteration but preserves the original stone and the patina noble. Using traditional and biomolecular methods, we studied the putative microbial contamination and confirmed the presence of biodeteriogens and chose biocide Biotin N for the removal of the agents causing the discolouration. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fluorescent in situ hybridisation established that Cyanobacteria and green algae genera were responsible for the green staining whereas the black microbial contamination was due to dematiaceous fungi. After the biocide Biotin N treatment, we applied molecular methods and demonstrated that the Cyanobacteria, and most of the green algae and dematiaceous fungi, had been efficiently removed. The reported case study reveals that conservators can benefit from an integrated biotechnological approach aimed at the biocleaning of chemical alterations and the abatement of biodeteriogens.