CANS project – Conservation of cAns in collectioNS

2014 — 2017

The objectives of CANS are to improve the knowledge about cans, to develop treatment methodologies respectful of the material authenticity and cultural values of these composite objects and to propose solutions in terms of preventive conservation.

Project short description

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.

Link to the blog

Project description and aims

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.

Scientific context

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.


Project leaders

Régis Bertholon – main applicant et Laura Brambilla – project leader


Niché dans un magnifique parc surplombant la ville, le Musée d’ethnographie de Neuchâtel (MEN) pose un regard critique et original sur les sociétés humaines.

The “TIC” is in charge of teaching and research in the broad area of surface science and technology of materials

Les activités de l’Institut Sciences du vivant comprennent la recherche appliquée et le développement (Ra&D), les prestations de service et la formation continue, en lien direct avec des partenaires industriels et économiques.

La formation en Systèmes industriels couvre un large spectre de technologies orientées vers l’innovation industrielle : de l’électronique à la digitalisation, de l’automatisation à la robotique, de l’impression 3D à la conception mécanique.