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Aspects of Chemical Research in Conservation: The Deterioration Process

Robert L. Feller
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
Vol. 33, No. 2, Papers from the Conservation Research and Technical Studies Update Session and the General Session on Collections in Historic Buildings of the 21st Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Denver, Colorado, May 31-June 6, 1993 (Summer, 1994), pp. 91-99
DOI: 10.2307/3179419
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3179419
Page Count: 9
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Aspects of Chemical Research in Conservation: The Deterioration Process
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Abstract

Before safe and effective practices in conservation care and treatment can be introduced, the chemist is called upon to address numerous aspects of the proposed innovations. The effort to provide the necessary background of facts and understanding regarding the underlying chemistry may not be of immediate interest to the practicing conservator, and the objective of many such studies is rarely that of immediate application. Examples are cited of research intended to address several different aspects of conservation chemistry. Investigations designed specifically toward the practical evolution of new methods and materials are commonly designated as developmental research, an area that in the past has received too little attention. Accelerated-aging studies indicate that the properties of systems of materials, principally those composed of organic substances, tend to follow distinctive patterns of deterioration-an accelerating, constant, or retarding rate over time or perhaps one that exhibits a period of relatively little change (an induction time) before decided changes occur. It has not yet become a regular custom to describe or approach the deterioration of specific artifactual materials in such terms. One reason may be that deterioration under normal conditions of aging can require a decade or more before marked changes in properties are apparent, so that the pattern of decay over time is not readily recognized. Nevertheless, progress is being made in identifying specific instances of autocatalytic (accelerating) behavior and in monitoring evidences of chemical changes during an apparent induction time. Recent research regarding cellulose triacetate movie film and artifacts of cellulose nitrate provides appropriate examples.

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