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Secrets of ancient artworks revealed thanks to Northumbria collaboration

16th June 2017

Northumbria University, Newcastle has been chosen to test a new type of technology which could be used to help save valuable, historic and ancient works of art, as well as helping experts identify fakes.


Dr Charis Theodorakopoulos, senior lecturer in Conservation Science is trying out the high-resolution multispectral imaging XpeCAM X01 camera developed by XpectralTEK.


The equipment uses a wide range of wavelength bands from across the electromagnetic spectrum, from the near ultraviolet to the infrared. This allows the user to analyse the layers of objects and paintings, from surface varnishes, through the various paint layers to the underdrawings beneath. Using this information, conservators can identify deterioration, spot marks such as hidden signatures and extract spectral information at selected spots.


As a leading researcher in the field of art conservation, Dr Theodorakopoulos is now using the system in a number of important projects within the North East. The new technique allows researchers to analyse what lies beneath the surface of a painting without causing any damage. It has already attracted interest from well-known museums and galleries and earlier this year Dr Theodorakopoulos organised a workshop focusing on the potential of multispectral cameras in art conservation.


The event saw representatives from the British Museum, National Galleries of Scotland, Tyne & Wear Archives Museum, the Bowes Museum and the private sector all attending, as well as a number of UK universities and major art conservation companies.


Dr Theodorakopoulos said: “The work I have carried out and links I have built within the field of conservation meant I was fortunate enough to be asked to be involved in this project. I appreciate the confidence XpectralTEK have shown in Northumbria University and our Art Conservation Group that led to the workshop being held here. I was very pleased to be asked to test the XpeCAM X01 camera – this is the very latest technology available within our field and to have it here at Northumbria is a fantastic opportunity. It is already being used in a number of exciting projects and I am sure there will be some great results to share over the coming months.”


During the Northumbria workshop, a seminar and lecture was given by Dr Vassilis Papadakis, co-founder of Xpectraltek. He said: “XpectralTEK is grateful for having collaborated with Dr Charis Theodorakopoulos in such a successful event. Northumbria University showed its excellency in infrastructure and education related to cultural heritage, and conservation of fine arts. The workshop attracted significant scientists from across the UK and brought new collaborations regarding spectral imaging. We are looking forward to furthering our collaborations with the conservation team in Northumbria University. We have to look beyond our human limitations and start studying the unseen.”

For more information about studying Conservation of Fine Art at Northumbria visit or come along to our Postgraduate Open Evening on Wednesday 21 June.

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