Historic buildings change over time in function, form and appearance depending on changing tastes. This is reflected in structural changes examined by architectural historians, and modifications in the decorative and coloured finishes, which the architectural paint researcher studies and documents. Because the history of successive decorations and finishes can be diverse and complex, it can be difficult to formulate a good starting point for restoration treatment of an interior. The paint researcher evaluates the different decorative phases which informs the restoration options, taking into account other components of the interior such as wallhangings or wallpaper.
During the architectural paint research, small patches of the successive coats of paint are uncovered with a surgical blade to create a stratigraphic window. By also analysing paint cross sections and paint samples, the composition, original visual character and dating of successive layers can be documented. In order to determine the pigments and binders more accurately it is sometimes necessary to resort to advanced instrumental techniques such as electron microscopy and infrared spectroscopy (in house). The proximity of analyst, researcher and architectural paint researcher assist in efficient data interpretation.
With specialised advice, thorough knowledge of historic paint finishes the colour researcher works closely together with the conservator and/or decorator.