Dr Petronella Nel has received from the University of Melbourne:  a BSc (Honours), PhD (Chemistry), and MA (Cultural Materials Conservation).

Dr Petronella Nel is a lecturer and researcher at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation. She is involved with the teaching and research programs at the Centre. Her research interests include the non-invasive analysis of artefacts, and the development of scientific techniques to conservation problems. More specifically her current research involves:  the analysis and assessment of adhesives used to repair archaeological pottery; conserving polymer based materials (like plastics and film) in museum collections; the elemental and mineralogical characterisation of ochre-earth pigments using PIXE, XRF, XRD and NAA; and the development of the Chemistry Collection at the University of Melbourne.

Professional Memberships

MRACI (Royal Australian Chemical Institute)

AICCM (Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material)

ICOM-CC (International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation)


  • 2016:  ARC-LP160100160 “A national framework for managing malignant plastics in museum collections”.  Investigators:  Dr Petronella Nel (UoM, GCCMC), Prof Robyn Sloggett (UoM, GCCMC), Prof Kenneth Ghiggino (UoM, Chemistry), A/Prof Barbara Stuart (UTS), A/Prof Rachel Popelka-Filcoff (Flinders), Dr Andrew Jamieson (UoM, C&A), Helen Privett (MV), Sue Gatenby (MAAS-PM), Catherine ter Bogt (QM), Dr Keryn Walshe (SAM), Dr Malgorata Sawicki (AGNSW).
  • 2014:  AINSE Research Award (ALNGRA14512),  “Indigenous art fraud:  comparative characterization of ochres from the Kimberley region and other sources by Neutron Activation Analysis”.  Investigators:   Dr Petronella Nel (UoM, GCCMC), Dr Rachel Popelka-Filcoff (Flinders), A/Prof Claire Lenehan (Flinders), A/Prof Robyn Sloggett (UoM, GCCMC), Deborah Lau (CSIRO).  
  • 2014:  McCoy Project Seed Fund “Self-destructive cultural heritage:  management of cellulose nitrate materials in museum collections”.  Investigators:  Dr Petronella Nel (UoM, GCCMC), Maryanne McCubbin (MV), Helen Privett (MV), Dr Andrew Jamieson (UoM, C&A), Dr Alex Duan (UoM, Chemistry), Dr Augustine Doronila (UoM, Chemistry), Dr Rosemary Goodall (MV), A/Prof Alison Inglis (UoM, Art History), Deborah Lau (CSIRO).
  • 2008: ARC-DP0879758 "Archaeological conservation: the development of analysis and assessment protocols for adhesives used on archaeological pottery". Investigators: A/Prof Robyn Sloggett (CCMC), Prof Antonio Sagona (Classics & Archaeology) and Deborah Lau (CSIRO). Research Associate: Dr Petronella Nel (CCMC).
  • 2008: University of Melbourne - CSIRO Collaborative Research Program. "Compositional study of ochre-earth pigments based on micro-PIXE and micro-XRF - micro-XRD techniques by application of multi-pixel array detector technology". Investigators: Dr Petronella Nel (CCMC) and Dr Peter Lynch (CSIRO).
  • 2007: Melbourne Early Career Researcher Grant Scheme (ECR). "Detection of contaminants in conservation adhesives: a quality control issue". Investigator: Dr Petronella Nel (CCMC).
  • 2006: CSIRO-CMIT Research Project. "The identification of an additive in old tubes of a conservation grade adhesive". Investigators: Dr Petronella Nel (CCMC) and Deborah Lau (CSIRO).
  • 2005: CSIRO-CMIT Research Project. "Pigment matrix effects when analyzing painted artifacts using micro X-ray Diffraction". Investigators: Dr Petronella Nel (CCMC) and Deborah Lau (CSIRO).


Scholarly book chapters (*refereed)

  • *Lau, D., Ramanaidou, E., Nel, P., Kappen, P., & Villis, C., 2013.  ‘Artworks and cultural heritage materials:  using multivariate analysis to answer conservation questions’ in K. Rajan (ed), Informatics for materials science and engineering:  data-driven discovery for accelerated experimentation and application, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, pp. 467-494.  ISBN:  978-0-12-394399-6

Journal Articles (*refereed journals)

  • *Willet, L., Newnham, M., & Nel, P., 2015. ‘Preliminary testing of Tea Leaves as alternative adsorbants for preserving early cellulosic motion picture film’, AICCM Bulletin, vol. 36, no. 2 (date accepted October 2015).
  • *Doronila, A.I., Duan, X.F., Nel, P., Kolev, S.D., Wood, B., & Lamb, R.N., 2013. ‘X-ray analysis determination of nickel in leaves of the Ni hyperaccumulating plant Pimelea leptospermoides F. Muell. (Thymelaeacea)’, Acta Manilana, vol. 61, pp. 185-191.
  • *Lewincamp, S., Tse, N., Nel P., Scott, M., & Sloggett, R., 2013. ‘Using a cross-disciplinary investigation to inform questions about an insecurely provenance middle-eastern manuscript:  a case study fo a middle eastern manuscript’, The International Journal of Science in Society, vol. 4(3), pp. 33-50.
  • *Hinde, E., Nel, P., Sloggett, R. & Roberts, A., 2013 summer, ‘Fluorimetric analysis of the constituent dyes within daylight fluorescent pigments: implications for display and preservation of daylight fluorescent artwork’, Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, vol. 52(2), pp. 97-106.
  • *Nel, P & Scott, M, 2011. ‘Context, access and communication strategies: complementary pathways to the conservation of a once forgotten chemistry collection'. AICCM Bulletin, vol. 32, pp. 144-152.
  • *Nel, P, Lonetti, C, Lau, D, Tam, K, Sagona, AG & Sloggett, RJ, 2010. ‘Analysis of adhesives used on the Melbourne University Cypriot pottery Collection using a portable FTIR-ATR analyzer'. Vibrational Spectroscopy, vol. 53, pp. 64-70.
  • *Nel, P, Casey, H, Lynch, P, Laird, J, Ryan, C & Sloggett, R, 2010. ‘Elemental and mineralogical study of ochre-earth pigments based on Particle Induced X-ray Emission and X-ray micro-diffraction'. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A, vol. 619, pp. 306-310.
  • *Nel, P, 2010. ‘Our chemical cultural heritage: Hartung (1893-1979)'. Chemistry in Australia, 77 (9), pp 30-32.
  • *Nel, P, 2010. ‘Our chemical cultural heritage: Masson and Rivett (1885-1961)'. Chemistry in Australia, 77 (4), pp 27-28.
  • *Nel, P, 2009. "Our chemical cultural heritage: Macadam and Kirkland (1862-85)" in Chemistry in Australia, December 2009, vol. 76, no. 11, pp. 28-29.
  • *Nel, P., 2009. "Our chemical cultural heritage: the University of Melbourne Chemistry Collection" in Chemistry in Australia, November 2009, vol, 76, no. 10, pp. 20-23.
  • *Nel, P., 2009. "Rediscovered: an introduction to the School of Chemistry Collection" in University of Melbourne Collections, Issue 4, June 2009, pp. 18-23.
  • *Nel, P., and Jamieson, A., 2008. "Cypriot Pottery at the University of Melbourne: an examination of historical context and conservation issues" in Leiden Journal of Pottery Studies, vol. 24, pp. 141-158.
  • *Pemberton, B., Nel, P., 2008. "Analysis of a white deposit on leather bindings" in AICCM Bulletin, vol. 31, pp. 28-35.
  • Taylor, T., Nel, P., 2008. "Blamire Young's Clouds in Spring, a watercolour with crystals", in AICCM National Newsletter, No. 106, March 2008, p. 18-21.
  • *Nel, P., 2007. "A preliminary investigation into the identification of adhesives on archaeological pottery" in AICCM Bulletin Vol. 30, pp. 27-37.
  • *Nel, P., Lau, D., Hay, D. and Wright, N., 2006. "Micro X-ray Diffraction analysis of painted artefacts: a study of pigment matrix effects" in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B Vol. 251, pp. 489-495.
  • Nel, P., 2006. "A Valuable Contribution to the Field of Archaeological Conservation" in Ian Potter Museum of Art Newsletter, The University of Melbourne, no. 1, p. 10-11
  • Nel. P., 2005. "A Valuable Teaching Asset for the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation - Toilet Bottle (glass)" in Ian Potter Museum of Art Newsletter, The University of Melbourne, no. 3, p. 6

Conference proceedings (*refereed publications)

  • *Nel, P., Noake, E., Jones-Amin, H., & McKenna, E., 2014, ‘Identification of and issues associated with polystyrene repairs on archaeological pottery’, in ICOM-CC 17th Triennial Conference Preprints, Melbourne, 15–19 September 2014, ed. J. Bridgland, art. 0502, 9 pp. Paris: International Council of Museums. (ISBN 978-92-9012-410-8)
  • *Nel, P., Sloggett, R., Casey, H., Lau, D., Hay, D., Laird, J., & Ryan, C., 2014, ‘A preliminary comparative technical analysis of earth-based pigments used by Aboriginal artists from the Kimberley region and other natural, synthetic or commercial sources’, in ICOM-CC 17th Triennial Conference Preprints, Melbourne, 15–19 September 2014, ed. J. Bridgland, art. 1608, 11 pp. Paris: International Council of Museums. (ISBN 978-92-9012-410-8)
  • *Nel, P, Lau, D & Braybrook, C, 2012. ‘A closer analysis of old cellulose nitrate repairs obtained from a Cypriot pottery collection' in Symposium 2011: Adhesives and Consolidants for Conservation Research: Research and Applications - Symposium papers, 17-21 October 2011, Canadian Conservation Institute, Ottawa, online.
  • *Nel, P, Jones-Amin, H, Jamieson, A, Sloggett, R & Sagona, A, 2011. ‘New conservation education and research roles for a Cypriot pottery collection' in Museums Australia National Conference 2010 - Interesting times new roles for collections - Conference papers, 28 September - 2 October 2010, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, online, pp 129-135.
  • *Hinde, E., Nel, P., Sloggett, R.J. and Roberts, A., 2009. "Fluorescence analysis of the constituent dyes within a daylight fluorescent paint layer via thin layer chromatography: and the implication for colour matching" in Proceedings of the 11th Congress of the International Colour Association (AIC 2009), CD. Colour Society of Australia, Sydney.
  • *Nel, P., and Lau, D., 2009. "Identification of a formulation change in a conservation grade adhesive" in Holding it all together: ancient and modern approaches to joining, repair and consolidation - Conference Proceedings, British Museum, London, February 21-22, Archetype Publications, London, pp. 99-106.
  • *Nel, P. 2009. "Issues associated with adhesives used on archaeological pottery" in Vessels: Inside and Outside - EMAC '07 - 9th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics - Conference Proceedings, October 24-27, 2007, Hungarian National Museum, Budapest, pp. 187-195.
  • *Nel, P., and Lau, D., 2008. "Micro X-ray Diffraction Analysis of Pigments: Determination of detection limits of fourteen coloured pigments in three white pigment matrices" in 9th International Congress for Applied Mineralogy - Proceedings, 8-10 September 2008, pp. 137-144.
  • *Hinde, L., and Nel, P., 2008. "A novel technique for the photography of daylight fluorescent artwork" in ICOM-CC 15th Triennial Meeting - Diversity in Heritage Conservation: Tradition, Innovation and Participation, Conference Preprints, Vol. 1, New Delhi, India, September 23-26, 2008, pp. 286-294.
  • Nel, P., Lau, D., Hay, D., and Wright, N., 2007. "Micro X-ray Diffraction Analysis of Painted Surfaces" in Contemporary Collections - AICCM National Conference - Preprints, eds. A Pagliarino and G Osmond, Brisbane, 17-19th October 2007, pp. 122-129
  • Nel, P., Lau, D., Hoobin, P., Braybrook, C., Mardel, J., Burgar, I., Chen, M., Curtis, P., and McHugh, C., 2007. "Analysis of adhesive used to repair archaeological pottery" in Contemporary Collections - AICCM National Conference - Preprints, eds. A Pagliarino and G Osmond, Brisbane, 17-19th October 2007, pp. 197-206.
  • Hinde, E., Nel, P., Sloggett, R., and Roberts, A., 2007. "A Photographic method for documenting daylight fluorescent paint" in Contemporary Collections - AICCM National Conference - Preprints, eds. A Pagliarino and G Osmond, Brisbane, 17-19th October 2007, pp. 31-36.


  • Nel, P., 2008. "Significance Assessment of the Chemistry Cultural Collection", September 2008.


CUMC40006 Analytical Chemistry Techniques in Conservation

CUMC40007 Technical Examination and Documentation

CUMC40008 Conservation Materials Chemistry

Chemistry Bridging Course


Petronella supervises postgraduates, most notably when scientific analysis is involved with the conservation research project.


  • Leila Alhagh, 2015-present, Artistic and literary aspects of ‘Sad kalamih Shah Vilayat (One hundred sayings by Ali):  an analytical study of MUL17 (a manuscript from the Melbourne University Islamic manuscript collection)
  • Yue Qiu, 2015-present, Development of new non-destructive diagnostic method based on fine structural chemical shift for the characterisation and identification of cultural materials by ED-XRF
  • Claire Tindal, 2014-present, Replicating the past:  a digital approach to loss compensation in cultural material conservation
  • Sadra Zekrgoo, 2014-present, Identification of 16th-18th Century Persian Inks:  Analytical study of the manuscripts from the University of Melbourne’s Middle Eastern Collection
  • Emily Noake, 2014-present, Deteriorating cultural heritage:  placing a framework around malignant cellulose nitrate in museum collections
  • Elizabeth Hinde 2007-2009, A spectroscopic and chromatographic study of the photochemical properties of a daylight fluorescent palette