Glass comes in all colours and shapes ‒ old or more recent glass, transparent or opaque. Our lab conducts research into all types of glass on Belgian soil. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we not only learn a lot about the glass itself but also about its historical and cultural context.
How do we proceed?
"Our work is based on archaeometry studies", explains Helena Wouters, head of the lab. "That means that we use scientific methods to answer archaeological and art historical questions about glass via various analytical techniques. Each glass carries its genetic signature, which allows us to trace the origin of the raw materials and get an insight into the manufacturing processes. This also enables us to trace historical evolutions. All research data is collected in a database containing the results of 30 years of research and can be consulted by anyone who wants to date glass."
We carry out research into:
- the composition of glass of various kinds, and from very different periods, from ancient to modern times
- the technical material composition of the decoration layer
- the chemical weathering process: cause, condition, treatment, preservation
- the enamel paint applied to metal surfaces according to the cloisonné and champlevé techniques. In this framework, we conduct specific research into the composition of the enamel, its adhesion and the degradation of the enamel and the metal surface.
We work closely with our colleagues from the Glass and Ceramics Studio, the Stone Sculpture Studio and the Textiles Studio. Our Preventive Conservation Unit advises us on mould problems and questions concerning the ideal conditions for storing and exhibition glass, among others.
We work for museums, local authorities, churchwardens and private collectors. Restoration studios also call on our expertise to guide their treatment choices. Universities involve us as project partners or co-supervisors for master's or doctoral theses.
Glass in Belgium
Glass is often colourless, but it can also be 'mass-coloured' by adding colour pigments during production. It is both transparent and opaque.
In the Glass Lab, we see a variety of glass types:
- hot processed opaque glass (such as glass beads, amphoras, mosaic cubes, millefiori, marbrite)
- hollow glass (blown glass)
- flat glass (window glass, tablet glass and mirror plate glass)
- stained glass (glass mounts, glass paints such as grisaille, enamel, ‘stains’ and cold paint)
- enamel on metal
The lab focuses mainly on ‘Glass in Belgium’. This includes materials and objects made in present-day Belgium and everything that has been excavated, discovered, and is present on Belgian soil. This also includes all items stored in Belgian museum collections, reserves and archives.
Each piece of glass carries its genetic signature, which allows us to trace the origin of the raw materials and get an insight into the manufacturing processes.
Much more than a piece of glass
Typo-chronological and technological research is always conducted with an art historian or restorer.
Helena Wouters: "To better understand the history of glassmaking, we do not only study the form and composition of the glass, but we also rely on research into cultural choices, the history of exchanges between certain regions, the supply of and access to primary materials. Our research also includes the economic and socio-cultural aspects of these objects' producers and consumers. An interdisciplinary approach is indispensable, which is why we look for cooperation and partnerships wherever possible."
The interdisciplinary approach manifests itself in:
- art historians, restorers and scientists working under the same roof
- cooperation with independent experts for specific cases
- close contact with international expert groups for the exchange of knowledge and data
- close connections with regional archaeological services, giving us immediate access to new finds
- membership of international organisations, such as Corpus Vitrearum and the Association internationale pour l'histoire du verre (AIHV). This allows us to keep abreast of international research developments, discuss pressing problems within a global network, and benefit from extensive cooperation opportunities.
Would you like to request an investigation? Contact us for initial advice or a free quote.
We will gladly assist you in choosing the most suitable analysis technique or study.
Consult our price list
For complex studies, we come on site in advance to determine the price.