Discover the effects the fire had on Notre Dame's stained glass, and how one scientist is meticulously cleaning and repairing it.
Saving Notre Dame's Stained Glass Masterpieces
Published: November 20, 2020
Narrator: Inside Notre-Dame, scientists begin to gather data and investigate the damage to treasured statues, murals and windows. The cathedral’s most fragile wonder, it’s stained glass, dates back to the thirteenth century. Miraculously, they survive the fire intact.
But the intense heat that melted the cathedral’s lead covered roof means that much of the glasswork is now covered in a layer of toxic lead powder. Removing it could damage the delicate glass and be harmful to restorers.
Glass Scientist, Claudine Loisel uses a handheld digital microscope to investigate the levels of lead powder on the stained glass. She must then formulate a strategy to clean every single panel; a vast decontamination program.
Claudine examines deposits from windows around the cathedral. The samples reveal vital clues about the spread of the lead contamination. The windows of the upper level, in the path of the lead cloud, have been most contaminated.
The team takes out and transports these panels to this special laboratory where they experiment with ways to remove the lead. First, Claudine uses a precision vacuum cleaner to remove the hundred years of dust… and most of the lead powder along with it.
Claudine Loisel: So this is a good way to protect the conservator. You can control the action, the pressure on the glass and also on the painting.
Narrator: Then she uses water and cotton balls to remove the last of the lead.
Claudine Loisel: Of course, you need scientific evidence that it’s working.
Narrator: Claudine uses x-ray spectroscopy to determine exactly how many wipes it takes to bring the lead down to normal levels.
Claudine Loisel: So, we can identify each chemical element we have in the material.
Narrator: Too few wipes and the lead will remain. Too many wipes and restoration will take longer than necessary.
Claudine Loisel: Ok, now the analysis is finished.
Narrator: After five wipes, Claudine checks to see if the glass is decontaminated.
Claudine Loisel: Ok, we have different chemical element, calcium, iron, and if we want to see the lead… there is no lead! After nine months, we can see a good solution, a good way to clean and to preserve the stained glass windows from Notre Dame.
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