Explained: How scientists are using grime-eating bacteria to restore classical art

What is the News?

Recently, a team of scientists has used helpful bacteria to clean the art work of Michelangelo in Italy.

How is the Artwork cleaned?

Art restorers have usually employed chemical agents and more recently laser techniques to remove dirt, oil, glue or pollutants from monuments, stoneworks and paintings.

But since 1980s, when researchers first used micro-organisms like Bacteria Desulfovibrio vulgaris to clean a marble monument at the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, the role of micro-organisms has been recognised in protecting the artistic heritage of humanity.

But aren’t microorganisms like Bacteria considered harmful for Art?

Bacteria and other tiny organisms have traditionally been viewed as a threat to art. 

But not all are harmful. Some specialized microbes can be set loose on artwork in an effort to clean and restore the original glory of these pieces of cultural heritage.

Moreover, these bacteria are not modified or genetically engineered. They are just common ones from natural environments that love to eat various proteins.

Can this method be used to fix the discoloration of Taj Mahal?

For this, we need to study the marble of Taj Mahal to understand if it is just dust and particulate carbon causing the dark color or if there is a biofilm formation (Biofilms are formed when communities of microorganisms adhere to a surface).

Moreover, a research paper in 2014 has said that calcifying bacteria could be used for remediation of stones and cultural heritage monuments, including the Taj Mahal.

The Archeological Survey of India is also learnt to be exploring the option of employing bio-restoration at the Taj.

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: How scientists are using grime-eating bacteria to restore classical art published in Indian Express on 12th January 2022.

Print Friendly and PDF