Campus News

View Year

Masterpieces Through the Microscope: Juniata Chemist to Talk on Analyzing Art

(Posted December 1, 2008)

Richard Hark, professor of chemistry, spent a year in England using a Raman microscope to examine artifacts at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

HUNTINGDON: Pa. -- Art is often in the eye of the beholder, but Richard Hark, professor of chemistry at Juniata College, will discuss how art can be analyzed and evaluated through the eyepiece of a Raman microscope to authenticate, restore or identify the compounds used to create the artifact in the lecture "A Year in England: Archeological Puzzles and Miniature Treasures," at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 9, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Bookend Seminar series features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata College faculty.

Hark, who teaches a course at Juniata called Chemistry of Art, spent the entire 2007-2008 academic year on sabbatical working at University College in London and evaluating art and artifacts at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Hark spent the year learning techniques for a Raman microscope, which uses a laser beam to analyze unique reflected light signatures to identify organic or inorganic material for analysis and identification. The microscope has recently been recognized as the best single method for identifying compounds in ceramic pigments or dyes, icons, paintings, manuscripts, papyrus and other artifacts. In addition, the method is non-destructive.

Hark worked with Robin J.H. Clark, a chemistry professor at University College, on a series of identification and analytical projects, including identifying pigments in plaster samples taken from Catalhoyuk, a Neolithic site in southern Turkey, Romanesque wall paintings from a church in the Pyrenees Mountains, bone fragments from a Neolithic burial site in Azraq, Jordan, various Italian manuscript cuttings from the museum's collection of 12th to 16th century manuscripts, and various medieval and Renaissance miniatures.

Hark worked with Robin J.H. Clark, a chemistry professor at London's University College, on a series of identification and analytical projects, including identifying pigments in plaster samples taken from Catalhoyuk, a Neolithic site in southern Turkey.

Hark came to Juniata from Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, where he was assistant professor of chemistry from 1993 to 2000. He was promoted to associate professor at Marietta in 2000. After coming to Juniata, he received the Gibbel Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2007 and was promoted to full professor in 2007.

Hark earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., in 1984. He went on to earn a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996.

His work has been published in a variety of journals, including the Journal of Organic Chemistry, the Journal of Forensic Identification and the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He designed ninhydrin analogs as reagents for visualizing latent fingerprints on porous surfaces. His work in developing new reagents for latent fingerprints has been recognized by the United States Secret Service, the London Metropolitan Police Laboratory in London, England and Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.


Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.