There has been a long tradition of applying biomedical imaging techniques to the examination of historical artefacts,
owing to similar demands for non-invasive methods in both fields. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is no
exception. We review the achievements on OCT applications to art conservation and archaeology since the publication
of the first papers in 2004. Historical artefacts include a much broader range of materials than biological tissues, hence
presenting a greater and somewhat different challenge to the field of OCT. New results will be presented to illustrate the
various applications of OCT including both qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a fast scanning Michelson interferometer originally designed for in vivo
imaging of the eye. In 2004, our group along with two other groups first reported the application of OCT to art
conservation and archaeology. Since that time we have been conducting a project to investigate systematically the
potential of OCT as a new tool for non-invasive examinations of a wide range of museum objects and to design an OCT
optimised for <i>in situ</i> use in museums. Here we present the latest results from this ongoing project, which include the
determination of the optimum spectral windows for OCT imaging of paintings and painted objects executed using
traditional techniques, and non-invasive imaging of the subsurface stratigraphy of painted layers at multiple
wavelengths. OCT imaging in assisting spectral pigment identification and in measuring refractive indices of paint will
also be presented to illustrate the potential of the technique.