In March 2018 the GCI organized an experts meeting to examine issues related to advancing microfade testing (MFT) practice in the conservation community. Participants included scientists and conservators from Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Introduced by Paul Whitmore in the mid-1990s, and used at the GCI since the early 2000s, MFT provides a means of directly assessing the light sensitivity of artworks. The technique exposes a small spot (less than 0.5 mm) to an intense light source and monitors the resulting color change. MFT data is commonly compared to the fading rates of Blue Wool standards, allowing the prediction of an object's fugitivity before exhibition and the development of object-specific light exposure guidelines. MFT has become generally accepted as a preventive conservation tool, but there remain obstacles to its widespread use, including the presence of multiple iterations of the instrument; issues in the acquisition, setup, operation, and maintenance of a non-turnkey instrument; and uncertainty regarding the interpretation of MFT data and how it is used to guide lighting policy.
The first day of the experts meeting was a public seminar and instrument demonstration. Subsequent days focused on technical aspects of MFT and various dissemination strategies, resulting in the identification of several possible action items, including creating a website for didactic information and the development of training courses and guidelines. With colleagues at allied institutions, the GCI will look to lead a collaborative effort to broaden MFT use as fundamental instrumentation for preventive conservation. A report on the meeting is anticipated to be available by early 2019.