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Atomic and Molecular Structure

Chemistry 325

Himali Jayathilake, Senior Laboratory Instructor, and Maria Gomez, Professor of Chemistry

Traversing disciplinary boundaries, this science lab used infrared spectroscopy in the Art Museum to examine hidden layers of paint.

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Workshop of Joos van Cleve (Flemish, 1485-1540), The Holy Family (detail), ca. 1520
Photo Credit: 

Petegorsky/Gipe

Lab Instructor Himali Jayathilake and Chemistry Professor Maria Gomez embraced the unique possibilities of a teaching museum in their "Atomic and Molecular Structure" lab, bringing chemistry students to examine artwork in a firsthand study. Over the course of several labs, Jayathilake demonstrated to her students how infrared spectroscopy analysis and UV light can be practical tools of discovery. Students learned how to analyze layers of paint invisible to the naked eye, and in one dramatic case, revealed a forged artist signature that had been carefully painted over by art conservators.

Seeing Beneath the Surface pdf
 View the pdf to see comparisons of the artwork under natural and ultraviolet light.