The picturesque Northern English town of York is home to the famous Minster, one of Europe’s largest Gothic cathedrals. York Minster was completed in 1472 after 250 years under construction, and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its large number of elaborate stained glass windows, this house of prayer is one of the region’s tourist magnets. One of its highlights is the Great East Window (measuring 23 × 10 meters) which depicts the beginning and
the end of all things.
The window has endured six hundred years of wind, weather and other adverse conditions. Now, the York Glaziers Trust conservation studio has recently embarked upon its complete restoration. This involves dismantling each one of the over 300 panels to allow the surfaces of the individual glass pieces to be cleaned and restored. Dr. Sarah Brown, Director of York Glaziers Trust, explains: “The pre-conservation examination and documentation of every panel requires a microscope with a long reach, and two newly acquired Stemi DV4 Spot microscopes from Carl Zeiss are now an essential part of the conservators’ toolkit in our workshop. These allow precision adjustments to be made over the large but fragile panels with a minimum of effort.” The Carl Zeiss AxioCam is also being used to record the phenomena for future reference.
As the conservators clean the sensitive stained glass, monitoring by microscope is essential to ensure that neither the delicate protective gel layer of the base glass nor the potentially vulnerable paint layers are damaged. Once they have been cleaned, the glass pieces are carefully restored if necessary. The full restoration of the window will be completed in 2016. Microscopy will then have made yet another valuable contribution to the preservation of our cultural heritage.
May 2, 2012