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 24 Oct 2022      Art & Archaeology
10 Min.

Why is Documentation Necessary in Artworks?

Every work of art is unique with its production technique, materials used, and aesthetic features. It reflects the characteristics of the period it was produced and has a document value with this feature. Artworks are threatened by natural hazards, vandalism, aging, etc. For this reason, detailed documentation should be carried out to transfer the data contained in the artwork to future generations in case of loss.

Documenting all details against the risk of replacing or stealing artworks with their fakes is necessary. At the same time, a detailed documentation study is essential to provide scientific researchers with information about the artist's production technique and material preference. Understanding the production details, traces, and different layers of the work in terms of art history gives us more data about the story of the work.

Conservation studies are also carried out on works of art. Before the conservation studies, a detailed documentation study is carried out to determine the deterioration of the artifact and the properties of the material. For instance, before starting the cleaning stage, it is necessary to know whether there are varnish or retouched areas on the surface of a painting. To understand this, documentation should be done with a photograph taken under UV light (Image 1). Therefore, during the documentation and diagnosis stages, it is determined which problem to intervene in before conservation.

Image 1. Varnished Surface Photographed by Visible Light and UV Light.

It is necessary to carry out a documentation process by collecting as much data as possible before the conservation studies to protect the artwork and the conservators from any misunderstandings. After the interventions made to the artworks, sometimes significant differences occur between the before and after images. In order to identify the factors that cause these differences, we need to have detailed, high-resolution before and after photographs captured at different wavelengths.

However, the documentation phase is not carried out only in the first phase of the conservation process. Instead, it should continue in the other stages of the project as more data needs to be collected to keep the archives up to date and to track the artwork. At any stage of the conservation process, there is a significant need for documentation work.

All data, such as photographs, drawings, and reports prepared in documentation studies, should be backed up and stored in digital archives. It should be noted in which light values and with which filters the photographs were taken. Forenscope software offers users the option of automatically adding which filter-light combination is used in images taken with various wavelengths and filters, thus providing great convenience to its users.