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Research

Examining the Harp in Roma: The Process

Volker Haag / Valentina Zemke

Synopsis: In 2018, Harfenlabor asked the Thünen-Institut, Institut für Holzforschung to examine the Barberini Harp at the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali in Roma in order to identify the wood species used in making the harp. In December 2018, wood scientists Volker Haag and Valentina Zemke transported comprehensive microscopy equipment from Hamburg to Roma. At the heart of this equipment is a state-of-the-art 3D-RLM (3D-reflected light microscopy) microscope for a completely non-destructive material analysis that allows the scientists to determine the wood species in a non-invasive way. This is crucial as the Barberini Harp is kept under strict conservation conditions. The scientists’ tools include a custom computer with specialist image analysis software, as well as various eyepieces and stands for different applications. Haag and Zemke were supported in the examination process by the wood scientist Swati Tamantini (Università degli Studi della Tuscia, DIBAF, Viterbo), who took and processed some of the operational images used in subsequent analysis. The Barberini Harp is covered in gilding, black paint and shellac—the scientists had to look carefully for areas with suitable, exposed wood surfaces, generally the worn areas and areas covered in clear shellac. The gilded parts of the column can only be examined with micro-CT. The scientists look for structural wood features that they can analyse and compare with the Thünen-Institut’s databases. The examination is both macroscopic and microscopic and also looks at the way in which the wood was originally cut. The process is complicated by the centuries-old dirt, resin, grease, and dust that interfere with the imaging or through material changes caused by soaking the wood in lacquer and other materials. After careful consideration, the museum director Sandra Suatoni allowed the scientists to remove and analyse a minuscule sliver of wood that was sticking out of a damaged sound hole. The piano forte maker Kerstin Schwarz was also able to observe the examination process.

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In December 2018, wood scientists Volker Haag and Valentina Zemke from the Thünen-Institut, Institut für Holzforschung transported comprehensive microscopy equipment from Hamburg to the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali in Roma. At the heart of this equipment is a state-of-the-art 3D-RLM (3D-reflected light microscopy) microscope for a completely non-destructive material analysis that allows the scientists to identify the types of wood used to build the Barberini Harp. The scientists’ repertoire of tools also includes a custom computer with specialist image analysis software, as well as various eyepieces and stands for different applications. This video provides an account of this process. Haag and Zemke were supported in this process by the wood scientist Swati Tamantini of the Università degli Studi della Tuscia, DIBAF (Viterbo), who took and processed images used in the February 2019 Thünen-Institut Wood Species Identification Report.


With the generous support of the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali, Thünen-Institut, and Studio Armin Linke.


© Armin Linke / Harfenlabor 2022
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Cite:&&<i>Examining the Harp in Roma: The Process</i>, Barberini Harp Project / Examinations, by Studio Armin Linke / Harfenlabor, May 12, 2022, Harfenlabor.com, MP4, 17:44, https://www.harfenlabor.com/research/examining-the-harp-in-roma-the-process/.