The establishment of a CATS-SMK database of watermarks for the use in research into paper history and art history on a Danish and international level was commenced in January 2013. The database is built on the open source software from the EU-funded “Bernstein project” and will be linked to and made searchable through their “Memory of Paper” server.


Lead by

Ingelise Nielsen, Associate Professor, Ph.d., Head of Graphics Department, the School of Conservation



One of the objectives of this work package is the establishment of a CATS-SMK database of watermarks for the use in paper history and art history on a Danish and international level. This work package will commence in January 2013. Initially, the collections of SMK and the School of Conservation will be recorded. The database is intended as a platform for a wider database containing watermarks from other Danish and Scandinavian collections, and the ultimate aim is to link it to the active open source database the Memory of Paper developed and completed in 2009 as part of the EU-funded “Bernstein project” by a team of specialists from a number of European museums and universities.


Description of work

In the past, art historians and conservators have traditionally recorded watermarks with more or less inadequate methods and tools such as drawing, inaccurate photography or conventional X-radiography. Since 2002 research in alternative methods of digital recording by specialists from the Bernstein project has resulted in the creation of a low-voltage digital X-radiography recording model.


Task 1

Degradation of cellulosic materials, canvas, paper and wood. The significance of the presence of metal ions (e.g. ink), lignin, alum, and different conservation treatments for the stability and state of preservation.


Task 2

X-ray imaging of watermarks is fast and precise and safe for the object, and the information is digitally accessible. In November 2009 test recordings at the SMK with borrowed digital computed X-radiography equipment and software have given promising results. In addition to participants from the Conservation Department, the project group includes Chris Fischer, Head of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Master Drawings at SMK, and Ph.D. Ingelise Nielsen, Head of the Department of Graphic Art, School of Conservation.



• Studying the degradation of celluloses and integrating theories and research from other fields than paper, e.g. textile and wood.

• The establishment of a database built on the open-source software from the Memory of Paper.

The possibility of employing digital X-radiography in addition to the scanning of existing analogue  recordings will be a decisive step forward.