CANS project – Conservation of cAns in collectioNS


Cultural heritage consists in artworks (painting, sculpture…) but also in usual and everyday objects (tools, machines…) sometimes unexpected, such as food preserves. Patented at the early 19th century, cans represent an important technological innovation and one of the symbols of consumer society. They are represented in several museum collections as witness to different time periods and significances. However, their conservation is particularly problematic as severe corrosion phenomena occur due to interaction with environment as well as between the organic content and the metallic sealer.


The objectives of CANS are to develop conservation methodologies respectful of the material authenticity and cultural values of these composite objects.

The project includes:

  • investigation on the values and functions of cans in our society;
  • identification of the principal problems of conservation in different museum collections;
  • assessment of the relation between observed degradations, environmental conditions and cans composition (materials used, forms, contents…);
  • investigation on the mechanisms involved in the long-term degradation of both containers and contents;
  • proposition of preventive conservation methodologies and possible interventions.


CANS project constitutes an interdisciplinary research that brings together ethnologists, food technology experts, conservators-restorers and conservation scientists (corrosion, material sciences). This project will contribute to the discovering of degradation mechanisms and to the set up of preventive conservation strategies of those objects that are actually part of the cultural heritage.


  • Haute Ecole Arc Conservation-restauration (main applicant)
  • Musée d’Ethnographie de Neuchâtel
  • Tribology and interface chemistry group – EPFL
  • Institut Technologies du vivant – HES-SO Valais
  • Institut Systèmes industriels – HES-SO Valais



SNF (Swiss National Science Foundation)

1 September 2014 – 31 August 2017

Main applicant: Régis Bertholon
Project leader:
Laura Brambilla


Laura Brambilla