School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Research Publications

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    Non-invasive identification of polymers in cultural heritage collections: evaluation, optimisation and application of portable FTIR (ATR and external reflectance) spectroscopy to three-dimensional polymer-based objects
    Bell, J ; Nel, P ; Stuart, B (BioMed Central, 2019-12-01)
    Abstract The conservation of polymer-based cultural heritage is a major concern for collecting institutions internationally. Collections include a range of different polymers, each with its own degradation processes and preservation needs, however, they are frequently unidentified in collection catalogues. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy is a useful analytical tool for identifying polymers, which is vital for determining storage, exhibition, loan and treatment conditions. Attenuated Total Reflection (ATR), and External Reflection (ER) are proven effective FTIR sampling techniques for polymer identification and are beginning to appear in conservation labs. This paper evaluates and optimises the application of these two FTIR techniques to three-dimensional plastic objects in the museum context. Elements of the FTIR measurement process are investigated for 15 common polymers found in museum collections using both authentic reference sheets, and case study objects to model for surface characteristics. Including: use of the ATR and ER modules, the difference between clamping and manually holding objects in contact with the ATR crystal, use of the Kramers–Kronig Transformation, signal-to-noise ratios for increasing number of co-added scans, resultant time taken to collect each measurement, associated professional, health and safety considerations, and the use and availability of reference materials for polymer identify verification. Utilising this information, a flowchart for applying FTIR spectroscopy to three-dimensional historic plastic objects during museum collection surveys is proposed to guide the conservation profession.
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    Characterisation and deterioration of stone papers
    Chu, C ; Nel, P (Routledge, 2019-01-02)
    Stone paper, also known as rich mineral paper, is a paper-like material manufactured from calcium carbonate with a small amount of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), instead of traditional cellulose-based fibres. For environmental reasons, stone paper was designed to degrade when exposed to sunlight. It was the aim of this study to address the research gap in conservation literature describing the properties and degradation patterns of stone paper. Three stone paper samples were characterised using visual examination techniques and analysed using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy with attenuated total reflectance (ATR-FTIR) and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). Calcium carbonate, talc, kaolin, high-density polyethylene and an unknown trace material(s) were identified in these stone papers. Under accelerated ageing conditions, the stone paper samples consistently demonstrated a higher rate of chemical and physical degradation compared to a cellulose paper standard when exposed to visible light and ultraviolet radiation. Through this study, a greater understanding was obtained of stone paper composition, its ageing trajectory, and its response to environmental factors. Further research is required to identify the unknown trace element(s) and whether photo-sensitive additives are present. These results should help to inform the identification, storage, display and treatment of stone paper-based collections.
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    Conservation and characterization of arabic papyrus in Egyptian National Library and Archives, Egypt
    Mohamed, A ; Nel, P ; Wahba, W ; Kamel, A ; Sloggett, R (IOP Publishing, 2020-11-10)
    An Ara bic Pa pyrus sheet stored a t the Egyptia n Na tiona l Libra ry a nd Archives wa s previously pla ced on unknown seconda ry support, a nd interlea ved between two gla ss sheets enclosed with a dhesive ta pe. This pa pyrus ha s various deteriora tion issues especia lly in the upper section where there is a la rge embedded sta in ca using the pa pyrus to stick to the secondary support a nd the gla ss sheet. Conserva tion trea tments conducted involved clea n ing, fibre a lignment a nd rehousing, scientific investiga tions including visible light microscopy, Fourier tra nsform infra red spectroscopy with a ttenua ted tota l reflecta nce (FTIR-ATR), a nd Sca nning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive Spectrometry (SEM-EDS) were conducted to identify ma teria ls involved. A la ck of informa tion in the historica l records a bout the exca vation a nd previous conserva tion trea tments increa se the importa nce of the resea rch. The a na lysis showed tha t the seconda ry support is gela tine a nd Ara bic text wa s written in ca rbon ink. The gela tine support wa s successfully removed from the pa pyrus a nd the pa pyrus document wa s re - housed.
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    Identification of issues associated with finding polystyrene repairs on archaeological pottery
    NEL, P ; Noake, E ; Jones-Amin, H ; McKenna, E (International Council of Museums, 2014)
    At the University of Melbourne, an adhesive iden- tification survey using FTIR-ATR spectroscopy of 146 repaired Cypriot pottery vessels revealed polystyrene on five artefacts. This unexpected polystyrene finding raised concern about why it was present and how it may have contributed to the current condition of the vessels it was associ- ated with. Comprehensive analysis and mapping of polystyrene distribution on a vessel composed of 30 pieces revealed the adhesive to be present on numerous sherd edges, consistent with it being used as an adhesive. A new set of solvent param- eters was established for reversing brittle unstable conjoins of an adhesive not previously discussed or considered in ceramics conservation. These findings demonstrate the importance of accurate adhesive identification in planning successful treat- ments and the value of using portable analytical equipment for identifying adhesives otherwise not detectable using standard visual and ultraviolet fluorescence examination methods.
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    A preliminary comparative technical analysis of earth-based pigments used by Aboriginal artists from the Kimberley region and other natural, synthetic or commercial sources
    NEL, P ; Sloggett, R ; Casey, H ; Lau, D ; Hay, D ; Laird, J ; Ryan, C ; Bridgland, J (International Council of Museums, 2014)
    Developing non-destructive analytical methodologies for Indigenous Australian cultural heritage is of critical interest for art historians, curators, artists and conservators. Prompted by an observed increase in the number of Australian Aboriginal artworks with problematic provenance, highlighted in a ground-breaking authentication case, and technical questions raised by the need to treat flood damaged artworks, research was undertaken to determine the best methods for analysing ochrebased paints. As many Aboriginal paintings and artefacts are predominantly composed of earthbased pigments, samples of synthetic pigments and naturally occurring ochres were obtained from a range of commercial and geographic sources, including Australia’s East Kimberley region. A combined methodology based on particle induced xray emission (PIXE), Australian Synchrotron powder diffraction (AS-PD) and microscopy was developed to explore the ability of a complementary data set to differentiate between synthetic and natural earth-based pigments from Australian and overseas sources. In addition, such investigations will ultimately be used to generate a database of elemental, mineralogical and microscopy data with the aim of establishing provenance and informing conservation treatment approaches.
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    Identification of a white substance on 20th century leather bindings
    Pemberton, B ; Nel, P (Informa UK Limited, 2008-01-01)
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