Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.
X is for X-ray
X-rays are not just for people in hospitals or luggage in airport security; x-ray technology provides non-destructive testing techniques to aid in building forensics as well as art and object conservation. Non-destructive testing allows for greater exploration without unnecessarily harming historic fabric. X-rays can detect voids in building materials as well as leaks, cracks, and other signs of deterioration. Part of this is to understand the structure and ensure the safety of the researchers/contractors. X-ray fluoroscopy is used to identify materials such as lead, which you know is a common question about buildings today. (See NPS Brief 35: Understanding Old Buildings.)
If you’re involved in the preservation technology field and the building sciences, you know how in depth this topic can go (books, courses, careers). Check out this NCPTT report for more information about x-rays and other digital technologies in historic preservation. It is important to remember that science and historic preservation are connected, just as engineering and preservation are linked.