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Thursday, June 1 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Research & Technical Studies) Early intervention for At-Risk 21st Century Fugitive Media

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Effectively controlling the environment to reduce the need for invasive treatments is the goal for all heritage professionals. While significant attention is directed to historic materials, we all too often fail to recognize the more modern at-risk challenges in our collections. These risks can include both the impact of various storage environment parameters as well as challenges of display. Previous research has shown that significant changes in chemical and physical properties often occur early in the lifetime of historic and modern objects for a range of materials with the rate of change decreasing over time. This was true for the Star-Spangled Banner, with the interaction between keratin (wool) and dyes showing the photo-protective effect of some of the dyes on the chemical and mechanical degradation. One additional challenge is that most collections have experienced use, display or natural aging before they enter controlled collection storage environments. Research to determine environmental impact on modern felt-tip pens used on drawings in the Herb Block Collection at the Library of Congress led to exploration of light, dark and temperature effects, since the collection materials seemed to be both photo and thermally unstable. Curatorial staff observed fading in collection items that had never been exhibited or exposed to light. To assess these chemical changes, reference pen samples that replicated those used in these 21st century cartoon drawings were created and the media separated by thin layer chromatography (TLC) into its component dyes. This was to assess the relative light sensitivity of each of the dye components to identify what pens put specific drawings at greater risk. These penstix, sharpie, rub-a-dub and other felt-tip media samples were also drawn out on a range of substrates to assess the interaction between substrate and media. Samples were then placed in controlled light, dark and cold storage environments for successive periods of time and examined progressively over a period of 18 months. At the same time collection items containing the same media were kept in dark and cold storage environments. Both the TLC reference samples and collection items were examined non-invasively with spectral imaging to track any changes over time in response of the media to different natural aging storage environments. Media samples on various substrates were exposed to accelerated aging environments – light (with/ without ultraviolet) and dark, both with controlled temperature and relative humidity. Additional examinations were made using a microfade-tester (MFT) to determine a relative light sensitivity between the various media. Analysis of changes in substrate materials were also undertaken. Results indicated significant differences over time in sensitivity to light and dark natural environments for the fugitive media, with cold storage of reference samples indicating a protective effect. Collection items did not show the same definitive trend, probably since they had already undergone a combination of light, dark and natural aging. This research has positive implications for modern collections of fugitive media coming into heritage institution collections, since early intervention and storage in cool and cold environments will retard media fading, color change and loss.

avatar for Fenella France

Fenella France

Library of Congress

avatar for Chris Bolser

Chris Bolser

Preservation Technician (Imaging), Library of Congress
Chris Bolser is a Preservation Technician specializing in Imaging with a degree in Forensic Science from West Virginia University.
avatar for Meghan A. Wilson

Meghan A. Wilson

Preservation Specialist, Library of Congress
Meghan Wilson is an imaging specialist in the Preservation Research and Testing Division at the Library of Congress. She has worked extensively with multispectral imaging technology, developing guidelines and workflows for technical operation of equipment and image quality control... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 11:30am - 12:00pm CDT
Regency D Ballroom Level, West Tower