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New research laboratory of the Museum conservators


On 25 September, a new research laboratory was opened at the Auschwitz Museum. Specialized research will be conducted there on objects from the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz stored and protected in the Museum's Archives and Collections.


The new laboratory is equipped to carry out physicochemical research and molecular biology analysis, including microbiology and genetics. This will allow for a better understanding of construction of historical objects and the causes of damage from a broader. It is invaluable support for conservation efforts aimed at preserving the authenticity of this Memorial.

In the physicochemical section, research will be conducted on the analysis of pigments, salinity, porosity, and absorbency, as well as non-invasive studies of material and elemental composition. The molecular biology laboratory will focus on the quantitative and qualitative assessment of microbiological contamination on the surfaces of historical objects and in storage and exhibition spaces.

The opening of the laboratory was attended not only by the Museum's management and staff but also by experts who have cooperated with the Conservation Laboratories for many years: Prof. Beata Gutarowska, Prof. Sławomir Wilczyński, and Prof. Łukasz Bratasz.

"When we began development of the Conservation Laboratories, the primary challenge from the very beginning was selecting the right conservation methods for materials that are not conserved anywhere else in the world. This is necessary not only from the perspective of this unique place in the world but also from the perspective of conservation for the future. This is a great day. I realize that there are probably not many museums in Europe that have such a tool," emphasized Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, the Museum's director.

Prof. Beata Gutarowska, specializing in environmental microbiology from the Lodz University of Technology, who has carried out projects in the Museum related to this field, stated that scientists primarily see the need for comprehensive and extensive research when identifying microorganisms and determining the mechanisms of their destruction.

"I hope that with the help of this specialized equipment, you will expand knowledge for the entire world. We can report all these results to the biotechnology center, which will expand the bioinformatic data pool available to everyone. If conservators now identify microorganisms that develop in historic objects and input these sequences into databases, the whole world will have access to them," she said.

"This is probably the first museum in the world that is so well-equipped. I would like to draw attention to one device that has so far only been used in clinical diagnostics – the Real Time PCR device, which is used to detect even one copy of a gene. Such precise detection gives conservators the ability to react early. Thanks to this, we can also monitor the development of threats and choose proper disinfection methods," emphasized Prof. Gutarowska.

Prof. Sławomir Wilczyński from the Silesian Medical University, a specialist in bioengineering and imaging who cooperates with the Museum in developing new methods for the quantitative analysis of the impact of physicochemical factors and biocidal agents on the surfaces of historic objects, said that the cooperation between Silesian Medical University and the Museum has only one task: to preserve the testimony of truth.

"The truth is contained in every brick, in every object, and in every artifact that is meticulously collected and examined by the Conservation Laboratories. This is of colossal importance because the truth I am talking about does not result only from the care for memory, bonds, or the continuity of generations' traditions. A very important element of it is the durability of authentic substance. Thanks to modern technology and methods brought by science, it is possible to protect historic objects even more effectively. I am convinced that thanks to the new laboratory, the time for the objects of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum will stop, or at least slow down, so that they can serve the understanding of the mechanisms of intolerance, racism, and antisemitism, which are especially relevant today," he stressed.

"Cooperation with the Museum brings not only satisfaction but also gives us reason to be proud that we can contribute a small part to the commemoration of the greatest downfall of humanity and a great tragedy in the history of Europe. Scientific research is meant to make the world better, more reasonable, solidary, and secure, and certainly the new laboratory will make the path to this goal simpler and broader," said Prof. Wilczyński.

Prof. Łukasz Bratasz from the Jerzy Haber Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow cooperates with the Museum in providing the appropriate environmental conditions for Collections.

"I have a background in physics, but I am actually a representative of a new field of science that is developing. It is called heritage science. This is an entirely new trend. The Museum is contributing to the development of this scientific discipline," he said.

"The challenge is what the entire conservation world faces: how to protect objects that are not only specific in terms of materials but are also stored in places where some of the protection methods developed for museums are not possible. Placing this in this context and searching for protective methods, not only the best ones but also those that can be applied in this particular place, is very important," emphasized Prof. Bratasz.

"I congratulate the opening of this magnificent laboratory. I must also say a few kind words about the whole team. I recently attended a scientific conference organized by the conservation department in Torun. Your colleagues dominated the conference not only in terms of the number of lectures and presentations but also in terms of quality. This stands out not only in terms of equipment but also in terms of the competencies you have built here," he added.

The possibilities of cooperation between conservators and scientists were also discussed by Dr. Aleksandra Papis, head of the Conservation Laboratories: "Due to the need to adapt research methods to the specificity and condition of objects under the protection of the Museum, expanding the laboratory offers a unique opportunity for scientific cooperation. This will enable us to implement the highest standards in protecting historical objects from degradation and biodeterioration."

"Since the involvement of the first professional conservators in the Museum, we have been continuously developing. Specialists from new fields are joining the team, allowing us to gain new experiences and progressively expand the scope of our work aimed at preserving remains of Auschwitz for future generations. Expanding the laboratory for specialized microbiological and genetic research is part of this long-term strategy," said Rafał Pióro, deputy director of the Museum responsible for preserving the authenticity of the Memorial.

The new laboratory meets ISO safety requirements and has a comprehensive security system.

"The chemical laboratory has modern digesters and ventilated rooms for storing chemicals. The molecular biology laboratory has entry and pass-through airlocks to prevent cross-contamination, ensuring the highest quality of research. It is also equipped with chambers with laminar vertical airflow, providing safety for both staff and tested samples," said Dr. Anna Wawrzyk, a specialist in microbiology and epidemiology.

Ensuring safety was also a challenge during the construction of the laboratory itself. "The work was carried out in a historical building during an ongoing pandemic. Additionally, everything took place in spaces where conservators worked continuously," said Bożena Kubera, project manager from the Museum's Investment.

The opening of the new laboratory marked the final stage of the project "Reconstruction and Change of the Use of Existing Premises of Building A-50 for Research Laboratory Purposes." The project was co-financed with a special grant from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.