PhD Candidate in Cultural Heritage

Amsterdam, Netherlands
15 Oct 2019
End of advertisement period
20 Nov 2019
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Closing date: 20 November 2019
Level of education: Master's degree
Hours: 38 hours per week
Salary indication: €2,325 to €2,835 gross per month

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


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.

Further information

For further information, please contact:

  • Prof. Robert G. Erdmann

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Applications for this PhD position should include:

  • a detailed letter of motivation, stating why you want to carry out this particular research project and why you are the right candidate for this position (no more than 750 words);
  • a Curriculum Vitae outlining all relevant experience;
  • the names and contact details of two referees familiar with your academic record and research skills;
  • academic transcript of your Master (or equivalent) program;
  • summary of your MA thesis (250-500 words).

Interviews will take place in the week of 9 to 13 December 2019. For candidates living abroad interviews may be held via Skype.
Applications may be submitted no later than 20 November 2019 by sending your application to the link below.

No agencies please