We have discussed this more often. Like others I observe too little interest in the industry itself but can understand that lack of interest in the day to day practice of printing. There are many aspects to the job and with the simple numbers as provided by Wilhelm and the ink and paper distributors the easy answer is a reference to those numbers and then continue with all the other steps needed for the job. The usual warranty is the reference to the manufacturer's documents and some idle expectations that one of parties involved will compensate whatever goes wrong in time. There is a responsibility for all involved in our industry but I think there should be a guild to join that is linked to your independent research work, before things will change. Enough guilds already but none using that kind of control on media used, other criteria prevail.
However I am much more disappointed by the course museums, galleries, collectors, restoration shops have taken. In a sense they only look back and have no interest in what they are buying, selling, collecting right now. The problems are left for the future. I can understand that restoration departments and shops have some interest in the status quo but is it the same for the people that pay their wages? A lot of the research done on art media is on existing works that show conservation issues now.
There are institutions here and in the rest of Europe funded by musea, government, that should cover part of what you do but they do not, or touch the subject in one study and then it is done for the next ten years. Probably at costs that are way over your year's budget. But at the same time they are formally connected to their money suppliers, have the network, use the academic paths, and work in this country. Given the austerity measures taken here right now I see them fighting for their money. While it would be much more sensible to donate a reasonable sum to your ongoing testing at a much better price/performance level, I would expect them digging their trenches already. If a photo or art curator with some knowledge on art and photo restoration methods could be convinced that the fee they pay today to Aardenburg would substantially diminish their costs in the future, it might help.
A typical example is a new Dutch NWO project to do research on preservation/restoration of mixed media, say (chromogene) color prints with painting on them. http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/NWOP_8ASETA
. Bottom page. http://www.nwo.nl/projecten.nsf/pages/2300169034 No lack of EU and US participants and ample financial resources: 600.000 Euro. Established institutes with the right connections involved. The job probably will be done on good scientific level, though one might ask whether an art historian with such a wide field of interest is the best choice to guide that project. I expect the works by Ger van Elk to be the main subject of that research. Most likely the media will be described, extensive tests done, today's measures discussed and guidelines for future preservation and restoration formulated. I think I can predict the practical value of that research project right now, partly based on a case of destructed artwork some years ago. The analogue processes needed for a resurrection will no longer exist within twenty years, the old work can not be retouched, new work will be made and assembled with the old work for some odd criteria of artwork value. Has been done before. In practice I would expect inkjet printing to be used as the replacement of the chromogene color photography part. Will this research project refer to work done by Aardenburg-Imaging, Wilhelm-Research, RIT, Image-Engineering on inkjet print aspects? I doubt it. Edit: RIT is mentioned as a participating instiute, so on that I am not correct.
They probably will ignore the issue of disappearing technology and even if they look forward for replacing technologies, it will be based on their own limited research or knowledge of that technology. "Not invented here" exists in research too. References to scientific work done outside universities is usually not done either, does not deliver a better ranking for their publications.
The quantity of this kind of mixed media art work is quite limited and little of it did end in musea. Far less than the total of inkjet prints that are already produced today and will in the near future and so be bought by musea etc. Twenty years from now research will be done on how to preserve inkjet prints. If a similar sum of money used for the above project was now used to keep Aardenburg-Imaging continuing its important work, there would be obvious advantages:
* media standards could be described for art work purchases and by that diminish preservation costs in the future.
* it would educate everyone in that market on the importance of the use of good inkjet media
* initial fading could be limited right away
* with independent testing and derived standards the media manufacturing industry should be inspired to compete on quality
* a wide database of inkjet media produced and used over the years becomes available to musea etc which can help with additional preservation later on
* art historical work would benefit of a database like that
* the possibility to separate fakes from originals with data like that (my spectral plots could help there too)
* a public awareness of the issues creates a base for improvements in the wider consumer print market
What are the reasons this did not happen yet? The project mentioned above has at least an international approach but often we see research done per country while similar initiatives in other countries are ignored, no cooperation is sought. That is a pity, limited resources should be used better. Then there is the academic world and institutes like musea being financed from the same source, an institute like NWO most likely can not support an independent US initiative like Aardenburg-Imaging even if it was a small fee transferred. Not based on sound scientific grounds but just because it is not the right kind of institute that they can subsidize. Why does it not happen with a US equivalent of NWO? Probably for the same reason. The other issue is support from musea directly. As I understand it the museum sponsoring in the US binds the hands of the musea on supporting private initiatives that have a commercial structure and not a non-profit base. Not to mention the chance that industries in our sector are the sponsor of said musea which dangers any continuity of support for either the museum or the testing institute if the testing results are in conflict with the sponsor's interests. That is a Catch-22 situation.
People like Scorsese, Spielburg, that were aware of the necessity of cultural heritage preservation in the movie industry can be found in our industry too. Do we know famous photographers, artists, collectors that could raise the attention? Or famous people that are amateur photographers and get their prints made on the media we discuss here? We should not let this opportunity go, you have done too much good work already in creating the test method, the tests done, the expertise gathered, to let this slip into oblivion.
Met vriendelijke groet, Ernst
340+ paper white spectral plots:http://www.pigment-print.com/spectralplots/spectrumviz_1.htm
update july 2012: Moab changes, paper sorting by name