Gepubliceerd op 17-10-2019

PhD candidate in Cultural Heritage

The Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture of the Faculty of Humanities currently has a vacant PhD position: Monitoring of the surface appearance of daguerreotypes during their first tarnishing, electrolytic cleaning and possible re-tarnishing after treatment. This is a position within the EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Initial Training Network project entitled ‘Cultural Heritage Analysis for New Generations’ (CHANGE). The PhD is supervised by Prof. Robert G. Erdmann (University of Amsterdam) and co-supervised by Dr Christian Degrigny (HES SO) and Martin Jürgens (Rijksmuseum).

Project description
In the field of cultural heritage (CH), it is widely understood that CH objects undergo a wide variety of changes throughout their lifetimes. These can include dimensional changes, changes in mechanical or chemical properties, or, importantly, changes in their optical properties leading to visible change. These can be induced by exposure to light, pollution, temperature variations, vibration, impacts, or a variety of other physical, chemical, or optical stimuli. In some cases the changes are inevitable and beyond our control, but in many cases, through a strategy of preventive conservation, we can manage and ideally minimize these changes.

In the case of daguerreotypes, tarnishing can severely impact the appearance and value of the object. However, the particular nature of the metallic surface of a daguerreotype renders traditional photography ineffective as a means to monitor tarnishing. When an intervention is required, electrolytic cleaning methods can offer a potential solution, but monitoring the progress of the cleaning can also be difficult. Thus, to support daguerreotypes conservation a technical solution is needed to monitor and quantify surface changes before, during, and after conservation interventions.

This project mainly involves the development of new imaging techniques and associated software to perform monitoring of daguerreotypes during their tarnishing, electrolytic cleaning, and possible retarnishing. Although the project is specifically about daguerreotypes, it is anticipated that the resulting protocol could be more broadly applicable to surface monitoring of metallic or reflective surfaces. Particular aspects of the project will include:

  1. development of a monitoring protocol for tarnishing process using novel imaging techniques and software;
  2. development of software for (possibly real-time) visualization of surface changes on daguerreotypes, and may include
  3. use of the monitoring protocol to assess cleaning process and further reactivity of a metal surface, and
  4. time permitting, Application on real daguerreotypes and optimization according to the nature of tarnishing and the conservation condition of the artefacts.

The project is performed in cooperation with the Rijksmuseum (the Dutch national museum of art and history), so you will also work with Rijksmuseum conservators and scientists to ensure that the protocols and software you develop will be of maximum utility both within the field of daguerreotype conservation and more broadly across the museum’s conservation departments (metals, glass and ceramics, paper, textiles, furniture, and paintings).

Your tasks include:

  • development of a workflow for applying innovative imaging techniques and software in combination to traditional analytical techniques to monitor changes on daguerreotype surfaces during, before, and after they are cleaned;
  • validation of the controlled electrolytic cleaning of tarnished daguerreotypes;
  • completion and defense of a PhD thesis within 3 years;
  • completion and submission of three journal article manuscripts;
  • regular participation in national and international workshops/conferences.


  • A relevant Master’s degree, e.g. in computer science, physical science, engineering, or conservation science;
  • the ability to speak, read, and write in competent, academic English;
  • outstanding research abilities, as testified by your previous academic record, particularly by the quality of your masters-level thesis;
  • experience with programming, image processing, and data science;
  • enthusiasm for collaborative, multidisciplinary research;
  • strong organizational skills;
  • willingness to travel for on-site research in museums, conferences;
  • willingness to relocate to (the vicinity of) Amsterdam;

In light of the mobility requirements set by the European Commission for this project: at the time of their recruitment, candidates must not have legally resided or carried out their main activity in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years prior to taking up the position (short stays such as holidays are not counted).

Candidates must fulfil the definition of an Early-Stage Researcher (ESR) set by the European Commission. At the time of recruitment, ESRs shall be in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research career and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. Research experience is calculated from the date a researcher has obtained the qualification (Master’s or equivalent) allowing her/him to embark on a doctorate. Part-time research experience will be counted pro-rata.

Additionally, some experience in conservation of cultural heritage is beneficial but not mandatory.

Conditions of employment
contract: Three years.
The appointment will be for 38 hours per week for a maximum period of three years at the Department of Conservation and Restoration in the Faculty of Humanities.. The PhD candidate will be a member of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM). The appointment is initially for a period of 12 months; with an extension for the following 24 months, contingent on a positive performance evaluation. The intended starting date of the contract is 1 February 2020. The gross monthly salary (on a full-time basis) will range from €2,325 during the first year to €2,835 during the third year, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities.


University of Amsterdam
With over 5,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.

The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.

Faculty of Humanities – Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture
Research at the Faculty of Humanities is carried out by six research schools under the aegis of the Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research.

Additional information
For further information, please contact: Prof. Robert G. Erdmann


Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.