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The analytical methodology applied to cultural heritage objects, artworks and historical buildings does not differ, from a conceptual point of view, from any other analytical methodology applied to other kinds of samples. As students have learnt in their graduate courses in chemistry, the analytical methodology requires the fulfilment of different consecutive steps. It starts with the definition of the problem to be solved, then fixing the accuracy and precision required and also the constraints around the sample to be analysed. After this initial clarification of the problem to be solved, the analytical chemist selects a suitable analytical procedure with the corresponding quality control and quality assurance procedures to be used during the process, supervises the work done in the laboratory and/or in the field and performs the critical analysis of the results, including their uncertainty. Finally, they write the final report of the work performed with their final results and conclusions.

These steps of analytical methodology are not always taken into account by non-analytical chemists using modern instrumentation, especially when results appear on-screen after “clicking a button”. This can be observed in some papers published in non-analytical chemistry journals where the description of the experimental procedure is constrained to just a few lines.

This contradiction between the availability of highly sophisticated instrumentation and its incorrect use was the main motivation to propose the subject matter of this book after an invitation from the Royal Society of Chemistry. This book is directed mainly to analytical chemists working at the master's level on cultural heritage topics. However, the level of the book is also suitable for young professionals in the field of cultural heritage, such as fine art restorers, archaeologists, architects, engineers, biologists and geologists, if they are convinced of the need to obtain reliable analytical results as the basis for further decision-making processes in the overall restoration/conservation project.

All the parts and chapters in this book take into account these aspects of the different analytical strategies that are described. It is not a matter of using recent and sophisticated instrumentation – it is a matter of how to use it to obtain reliable results with respect to the stated problem (problem definition) to be solved.

The book is structured in four parts. Part 1 contains only one chapter, devoted to an Introduction to Analytical Strategies for Cultural Heritage, written not only for analytical chemists but also for non-analytical chemists aiming to go further in the field of restoration/conservation of cultural heritage materials. Do not forget that all artwork, archaeological objects and historical buildings are made of materials. However, materials are not the objective of the analytical strategy, it is the particular constraint of the analytical methodology that must be selected to diagnose the conservation state of the cultural heritage object or asset under study.

Part 2 introduces the Non-destructive Elemental Characterization of Cultural Heritage Materials. It does not cover all the analytical techniques able to characterize the elemental composition of materials, but is focused on non-destructive methods because nowadays it is highly desirable to reduce to the minimum the possibility of samples taken from cultural heritage items being destroyed during the analysis. Hence we must use non-destructive analytical techniques that do not require the physical extraction of samples or, if samples can be sent to the laboratory, that do not disintegrate them, making possible the return of the sample to its original position in the item under study. The three chapters included in this part present examples of the applicability of particular analytical techniques suitable for different kinds of cultural heritage materials.

Part 3 presents the Molecular Characterization of Cultural Heritage Materials, with the same conceptual basis as in Part 2. Not all of the analytical techniques available to identify the original minerals, organic molecules and/or decayed compounds are covered in the three chapters in this part, but only those that are more important nowadays or will be in the near future, as they have the possibility of using portable instruments in the field. Each chapter provides examples of the applicability of the individual techniques in the molecular characterization of materials.

All the chapters in Parts 2 and 3 introduce a multianalytical approach, i.e. the use of a main analytical technique together with other complementary analytical techniques to solve the problem better. This concept is better developed and exemplified in Part 4, dealing with The Multianalytical Approach to Cultural Heritage Materials and Their Degradation. The interaction of cultural heritage materials with their surrounding environment is complex and its understanding requires a global picture of the problem, deciphering the original compounds present in the raw material and the new compounds formed as a consequence of such interactions with the environment (atmosphere, sediments, soils, etc.). This global picture cannot be obtained by making use of only one analytical technique. However, one cannot use all the available techniques because the associated costs would be unaffordable. This part of the book provides important starting knowledge and clues to diagnose properly the conservation state of an item under study, selecting the most appropriate analytical strategies for cultural heritage materials and their degradation.

Juan Manuel Madariaga

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