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Sicily, Italy

Biotechnical Preservation of Antiquities

Course Number: 
School of Science and Technology
Semester(s) Offered: 
Summer 2023
Credit Hours: 

Our everyday understanding of the use of biotechnology is mostly based on its biomedical use, for disease treatments and drug development. At times the media covers the forensic use of biotechnology when DNA fingerprinting helps to resolve intricate cases or the discovery of a new animal/plant species. However, there is much more than that that can be done using this type of technology, and it is under our noses every day, such as when we walk through old buildings and monuments or enter a library or museum.  

“Biotechnical Preservation of Antiquities” is an experience-based course, whose main aim is to introduce students to the crossroads between biological science concepts and art conservation. In this context “Art” has a broad meaning and encompasses everything from architectural buildings to paintings, sculptures, textiles, and ancient books. Anything humanmade can be considered part of our cultural heritage. By stimulating critical thinking, students will learn about basic biological concepts and how they are involved in either the deterioration or restoration of artifacts of historical relevance like sculptures, paintings, books, textiles, and more. Specifically, we will see on one hand, how organisms are “colonizing” historic-artistic artifacts, biocontamination, and how the organic molecules they produce are involved in the "biodeterioration" of these artifacts. On the other hand, we will see how biotechnology can play an important role in the identification, isolation, and application of bioactive molecules useful in artwork "bio-cleaning" procedures or to control microbial colonization acting as "biocide". This course teaches students to integrate scientific principles with the conservation of artifacts. This learning process will be enhanced by conducting specific visits/lectures to museums, archeological sites in the context of the Temple-Sicily program, and the use of demonstrations in laboratory settings in our hosting institution, University of Palermo, Italy.  

Special Notes: 

This course fulfills the Science and Technology (GS) GenEd requirement for Temple students. 

Please note that this course is a GenEd Limited Edition course and will be offered for a maximum of three terms. Students should be aware that they may not be able to repeat this course.