Advanced technologies to preserve historical heritage at master’s program of ETU “LETI”


Professors from Russia, Italy, Canada, France, Argentina, and Greece will teach students innovative methods of analysis and restoration of cultural monuments at the first Russian English-taught master's program on Heritage Science.

In 2020, ETU "LETI" launches the English-taught master's program on Heritage Science. This is the first educational program in Russia to train highly qualified engineering experts in the restoration and documentation of works of art, who can work with innovative non-destructive technologies for the analysis and preservation of cultural monuments. It's opening in Saint Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia, looks natural and symbolic.

According to the organizers, the program seeks to meet the museums' needs for highly-qualified engineering specialists. Modern problems of museum work cannot be solved effectively without using the latest equipment, including optoelectronic devices and lasers. Employees of museums, as a rule, only have education in humanities and cannot work with complex modern equipment. On the other hand, the engineering specialists do not know the specifics of modern restoration and the peculiarities of research of works of art.

"Today, no higher education institution in Russia prepares engineers directly aimed at solving museum problems, and only a few universities abroad have programs for training such specialists, and they appeared quite recently."

Vadim Parfenov, the head of the program, associate professor of the Department of Photonics and Department of Laser Measuring and Navigation Systems of ETU "LETI"

In 2019, the first summer school in this area was successfully held at ETU "LETI." It allowed building a team of lecturers for the future program and understanding which areas of application of optophysical methods and technologies are most interesting for potential students. Since the school was attended not only by students of engineering fields but also by professional restorers with education in humanities, the creators of the program were able to check whether the specialists of this area are ready to study for a master's degree in Heritage Science.

Master's students will study the materials of cultural heritage sites and the impact of the environment on their aging and damage, learn how to apply chemistry and biology in restoration. Graduates will be proficient in optoelectronic methods and physical non-destructive approaches for analyzing works of art, laser and computer technologies for preserving cultural heritage.

The program will include lectures, practical and laboratory classes, but the main emphasis will be on research in cooperation with experts from leading museums and restoration laboratories of St. Petersburg. The partners of the university at the program are the Repin St. Petersburg Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, the Russian Museum, and the St. Petersburg State Museum of Urban Sculpture.

The organizers managed to gather an authoritative team of invited foreign professors. Lecturers from Italy, Canada, France, Argentina, and Greece will teach at the program.

"All invited foreign scientists are the world's leading experts in the application of laser and optoelectronic technologies in the restoration and analysis of historical and cultural monuments. They are in our team because my research team has been working with them for many years. Besides, all of them, without exception, are altruists and very enthusiastic people who sincerely want to help in establishing this scientific area in Russia," Vadim Parfenov says.

The program includes internships in Italian universities. ETU "LETI" partners in this country are the University of Bologna and the University of Florence, which are some of the few foreign universities with similar programs. Both universities have modern and well-equipped laboratories and cooperate with leading museums and restoration centers in Italy, which will allow students to gain experience in examining world-famous monuments.

The educational program is based on research and development of the departments of Photonics and Department of Laser Measurement and Navigation Systems. ETU "LETI" has developed a method of cleaning historical monuments, sculptures, paintings, books from microbial destructors using a laser. Scientists are also creating highly effective methods for monitoring the object condition using 3D laser scanning and spectroscopy, which will make it possible to notice even the slightest damage. The university has developed the method of laser contactless copying of monuments. In 2019, ETU "LETI" researchers received a patent for the method of laser document cleaning, which can be used to clean the surface of historical documents made of paper.

The first practical experience of the ETU "LETI" research team on laser application in restoration dates back to 2006. At that time, there was a project to clean marble tombstones in the necropolis of the XVIII century Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Researchers cleaned about 30 marble sculptures in the Summer Garden and carried out several restorations in cooperation with the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve.

"Since today ETU "LETI" is the only institution in Russia that conducts targeted research in Heritage Science technologies permanently, this area can become one of the distinctive features of our university. As the research topic expands, we are considering the possibility of creating a Center of Modern Restoration Technologies based on our university, which could work in close cooperation with museums of St. Petersburg and perform not only research work but also practical work on restoration, research, documentation, and monitoring of works of art."

Vadim Parfenov, the head of the program, associate professor of the Department of Photonics and Department of Laser Measuring and Navigation Systems of ETU "LETI"

The admission for the new educational program is open until the end of August 2020.


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