What is conservation science?

Conservation science is related to the field of cultural materials conservation; it describes the application of scientific techniques and method to the investigation of cultural heritage.

We can use it to try and answers questions like:
How was this made?
What is it made of?
How is this vulnerable to change?

Photo: Rosie Cook.


I am a conservation scientist based in Naarm (Melbourne) with degrees in chemistry and cultural materials conservation. My scientific investigations are informed by a grounded understanding of interdisciplinary practice and a deep knowledge of contemporary art conservation.

When applying scientific techniques to the study of cultural heritage, whether in-situ or laboratory-based, I prioritise non-invasive and non-destructive methods. My solid understanding of the investigative potential and limitations associated with these techniques is strengthened by experimental research in support of conservation and preservation activities.

I have worked both independently and within multi-disciplinary teams across small and large-scale projects, collaborating with conservators, curatorial staff, other conservation scientists, and scientists. I place great value on communication, including with non-technical audiences in the arts and sciences, and for public engagement and education purposes.

I am currently finishing my doctoral research at the Unviersity of Melbourne investigating the behaviour of modern artists’ paints in hot and humid climates.

ORCID: 0000-0002-4572-0605
Google Scholar


I am committed to building region-specific knowledge regarding the behaviour of artists’ materials in tropical climates. To support this I have developed an interdisciplinary practice, synthesising my formal scientific training with my interest and growing knowledge of artist practices and art histories in the Asia Pacific region.

Part of this includes research on:
- analysis of the behaviour of modern artists’ paints in hot and humid environments,
- analysis of artists’ material archives,
- archival research into the historical availability of artists’ paints in Southeast Asia,

and involvement with the Asia Pacific Tropical Climate Conservation Art Research Network. Working within this collaborative, interdisciplinary framework, conservation science investigations can make important contributions to addressing the misalignment between Euro-American conservation and art history and the needs of collections in the Asia Pacific region.

In my previous role as Australian Conservation Science Fellow at Harvard Art Museums, I collaborated with conservators, curators, and other conservation scientists on a variety of different projects, including major technical art history analyses of Grazing Horses IV (The Red Horses) by Franz Marc, a selection of eighteenth and nineteenth century Persian lacquer objects from the Soudavar Collection, and a bust of William Pitt by Joseph Wilton.

Alongside these large-scale projects, I also perfomed material analyses to answer ad-hoc curatorial, conservation and treatment questions as they arose.

From this opportunity I learnt how to develop dynamic workflows with conservators, enabling data from my conservation science investigations to effectively value-add to their research and practice. Since then I have continued to develop my knowledge and skills so that I can best support conservation practice in Australia, and the broader Asia Pacific region.


the scientific analysis of cultural heritage


- reflectance + UV fluorescence microscopy
- cross-section preparation + analysis
- FTIR-ATR + FTIR-microscopy
- Raman microscopy
- sample  acquisition
- p-XRF + XRF

materials analysis (inorganic + organic)

Identification of materials and techniques, interventions, characterisation of current condition and degradation products

traditional and modern/contemporary art and design
- paintings
- works on paper
- ceramics
- mixed media works
- metal design objects
- frames

archeological objects
- stone
- metal

- mural paintings

built heritage

- architectural finishes

reference materials
- historic and modern pigments and dyes
- historic and contemporary formulations of artists’ paints

model experiements

- modern oil paints
- paint additives
- environmental monitoring

investigation of degradation products


Book chapter (peer-reviewed)

2020    A preliminary investigation into the behaviour of modern artists' oil paints in a hot and humid climate. Grech, C, Tse, N, Doronila, A, Duan, X, Ahmad, A & Mat Isa, M. In K.J. van den Berg, I. Bonaduce, A. Burnstock, B. Ormsby, M. Scharff, L. Carlyle, G. Heydenreich, K. Keune (eds) Conservation of Modern Oil Paintings, Springer International Publishing.

Catalogue essays

2017    Harvard’s First Sculpture.Sigel, T, Grech, C & Eremin, K. In E.W. Lasser (ed) The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard's Teaching Cabinet, 1766-1820. Harvard Art Museums.

2017    Materials and Techniques of Persian Lacquerwork.Eremin, K & Grech, C.In M. Farhad, M. McWilliams, & S. Rettig (eds) A Collector's Passion: Ezzat-Malek Soudavar and Persian Lacquer. Freer | Sackler and Harvard Art Museums.

Conference paper (peer-reviewed)

2017    Questions of Colors: A technical study into Franz Marc's masterpiece 'Grazing Horses IV (The Red Horses)'.von Hedenström, A, Cooper, L, Eremin, K, Grech, C, Hensick, T, Khandekar, N, Newman, R & Smith, K. International Council of Museums Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) 18th Triennial Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Conference papers

2018    Investigation into the behaviour of hydrogenated castor oil in modern oil paints.Vernon, K, Grech, C & Tse, N. Infrared and Raman Users Group Biennial Conference (IRUG13), Sydney, Australia.

2016    What Lies Beneath: A Study of the Materials and Techniques of Persian Lacquerwork.Grech, C, Eremin, K, Khandekar, N & McWilliams, M. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the Canadian Association for Conservation (Association Canadienne pour la Conservation et la Restoration) (CAC-ACCR)'s Joint 44th   Annual Meeting and 42nd Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

2016    Materials and Techniques in Islamic Manuscripts.Eremin, K, Knipe, P & Grech, C. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the Canadian Association for Conservation (Association Canadienne pour la Conservation et la   Restauration) (CAC-ACCR)’s Joint 44th Annual Meeting and 42nd Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

2015    A Preliminary Study on the Effects of a Tropical Climate on the Chemical Ageing of Proprietary Artists’ Oil Paints.Grech, C, Tse, N, Doronila, A & Duan, X. Asia Pacific Tropical Climate Conservation Art Research Network’s 4th Meeting, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Technical analysis

2016    Fragen über Farben – Maltechnische und materialspezifische Untersuchung eines Meisterwerkes von Franz Marc: Weidende Pferde IV.von Hedenström, A. Restauro, 3:44-49.

2016    “Kannst Du Dir das denken?” Franz Marcs Weidende Pferde IV.von Hedenström, A & Roth, L. Franz Marc – ZwischenUtopie und Apokalypse.

2015    Behind the “Blot”: Technical Notes on the Drawings of Aubrey Beardsley.Knipe, P. & Stewart, M. Master Drawings, 53(4):523-530.

Other publications

2017    Review of the 5th APTCCARN Forum—Natural Disasters and Cultural Heritage in the Philippines: Knowledge Sharing, Decision Making and Conservation, Tse, N, Cotte, S, Grech, C & Soriano, P. AICCM Newsletter.

Blog posts

2017    APTCCARN at the ICOM-CC 18th Triennial in Copenhagen, Denmark.Cotte, S, Grech, C & Pianprasankit, J.N. APTCCARN.

2015    Study Abroad.Grech, C. Index Magazine, Harvard Art Museums.



I live and work on the unceded sovereign land of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation, I acknowledge their continuing connection to land, water and culture, and pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.