IRUG began in the US, when a group of museum scientists met informally in 1993 at the American Institute of Conservation (AIC) Annual Meeting in Denver, CO, to discuss the exchange of IR reference spectra and spectroscopic information.
The Denver discussion led to the first formal IRUG Biennial Conference in 1994 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, US and subsequent conferences at the Victoria and Albert Museum, UK (1995); Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, US, (1998); Bonnefanten Museum, NL (2000); and Getty Conservation Institute, US (2002), Institute of Applied Physics “Nello Carrara”- CNR, IT (2004); Museum of Modern Art, New York, US (2006); Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, AT (2008); University of Buenos Aires, AR (2010); University of Barcelona, ES (2012); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, US (2014); Art Diagnosis Centre, Ormylia, GR (2016); and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, AT (2018).
Participation grew with each successive conference. IRUG accordingly adopted a committee-based structure with regional chairs in 1998. In 1999, IRUG broadened its scope to address growing interest by participants in Raman spectroscopy and changed its name from the “Infrared Users Group” to the “Infrared and Raman Users Group”. In 2001, IRUG incorporated as a not-for-profit in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a governing Board of Directors.
THE SPECTRAL DATABASE
A major focus of IRUG throughout its history has been to improve and expand the spectroscopic data generated and shared within the international cultural heritage community through its collaborative database of reference spectra. Early compilations were distributed in 1993 and 1995. Afterward, a customized spectral file format was developed using the standardized protocol JCAMP-DX. In 1999, the first Infrared Review Committee met at the Institute for Research on Electromagnetic Waves "Nello Carrara", Florence, IT to evaluate spectra using uniform criteria for quality and accuracy of material identification. 1,258 of the QC'd IR spectra were formatted and distributed in 2001 as Edition 2000. In 2009, an expanded version containing 2,128 spectra was released as Edition 2007.
In 2009, IRUG began to build a Raman counterpart to the IR database. A Raman Review Committee was established and file format defined based on the existing IR JCAMP-DX file format. In 2011, developers from Endertech Corporation, Torrance, CA, were retained to construct the new database using open-source technologies. This advancement was supported by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Advancing Digital Resources National Leadership Grant.
The first IRUG Raman Spectroscopy Workshop was held in 2012 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It featured practical lectures by experts on Raman analysis of cultural heritage property and was live-streamed to increase educational outreach. A grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) division of the United States National Park Service (NPS) supported the workshop.
The IRUG website was established in 1998 (redeveloped in 2012) to provide public access to the database. The site has been sustained by several entities, notably the IMLS, NCPTT, The Dow Chemical Company (formerly Rohm & Hass), St. Gobain Corporation, PMA, V&A, IFAC-CNR, and the National Gallery of Art, (Washington, DC). The spectral database, bibliography and links to resources are publicly searchable and viewable. Individual accounts are available for online submission, review, and download of electronic spectra. Contributors can log in from anywhere in the world to conduct their transactions.
The success of IRUG and its database is attributable to the participation and ongoing support of the cultural heritage community representing conservation endeavors on an international scale, beyond the interests of any individual entity. By serving the larger scientific community, all contributors can enjoy the products of the group’s collaborative efforts.