In recent years, the various activities of the Laboratory have become increasingly differentiated and refined. With regard to “restoration and research” sector, through constant dialogue with the Diagnostic Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration, the Laboratory examines the best products and systems that enable optimum results to be obtained in cleaning procedures while respecting the different layers acquired by the surface of the works over time. Among these methods, laser cleaning must be highlighted: this approach proved decisive in the restoration of the statue of Bes, the sculpture of Sleeping Ariadne and the Egyptian sarcophagus in painted sandstone. This cleaning method is integrated, in the Laboratory's daily practice, with chemical or biological cleaning systems which are refined and enriched year by year in applied casework. Among such systems we may include the use of gellan gum, solvent gels, cleaning with bacteria and various trials with cold plasma.
Adopting the most recent developments in restoration theory, the Laboratory is strongly committed to experimenting with new methods in order to achieve satisfactory conservation. This means that the procedures carried out on the artefacts are increasingly carried out in the least invasive manner possible and, in any case, with methods that allow the full reversibility of the techniques used.
The solutions applied by the Laboratory for anchoring systems in the restoration of stone materials were presented in the course of the Eighth and Eleventh National IGIIC Convention, “The State of the Art”, and also published in the IIC Journal in 2011 and 2015.
From 2010 the Laboratory has provided internships for restorers who have followed or wish to undertake a specialist course at national and international universities or institutes for the conservation of cultural heritage. These internships, which last for a maximum of six months, receive a variable number of participants on the basis of current projects and availability.
From the same year, the Stone Materials Restoration Laboratory began a collaboration with a firm of specialist restorers for the daily and periodical monitoring and maintenance of the sculptures displayed along the 7 km of galleries in the Museums, intervening to reattach and fix fragments that were detached or in need of urgent fixing, as well as immediate inspections of the most complex or least clear cases. Recently its work has also included care of the floors and valuable architectural surfaces mostly made of fine pieces of ancient marble.
From 2014 a group of external professionals worked alongside the Laboratory on the “Gardens Project”, involving the cataloguing, restoration and maintenance of the many items from various ages present in the Vatican Gardens. In response to the problems faced in this workshop, and in direct relation to the Diagnostic Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration, new sustainable methods are being tested, in accordance with the lines of conduct typical of biorestoration, especially in relation to cleaning and protection from biodeteriogens and stains caused by iron oxides.
In recent years the members of the Laboratory have organised, participated in and presented works at a number of events and conferences dedicated to restoration, in the Vatican and abroad. This exchange activity has in some cases led to publications, some of which are listed below:
- Eighth IGIIC National Congress– The State of the Art; Venice 16–18 September 2010
- Eleventh IGIIC National Congress – The State of the Art – Academy of Fine Arts, Bologna; 10–12 October 2013
- Fifth APLAR Congress – Vatican Museums; 18–20 September 2014
- Twenty-second edition of the Ferrara Salon of Restoration; 8 May 2015
- Editorship of “La Pietà di San Pietro. Storia di un restauro 40 anni dopo”, Edizioni Musei Vaticani 2014