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Wednesday, May 15 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(Textiles) Treating Iron Degradation In Textiles: the Application Of A Paper Conservation Method

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The combination of iron(II) sulfate and tannic acid has been used as a colorant for millennia. Together they form the main components of iron gall ink, well known in the paper conservation community for its detrimental effect on paper substrates. However, iron(II) sulfate and tannic acid were also used to make brown and black textile dyes, and iron(II) was used alone as a textile mordant. Because many of these textiles, like paper, are cellulosics, they exhibit the same pattern of damage. This damage is largely caused by unbound iron(II) ions, which can accelerate the oxidative degradation of cellulose through a series of cyclical chemical reactions. In 1995, paper conservator Johan Neevel published "Phytate: A Potential Conservation Agent for the Treatment of Ink Corrosion caused by Iron Gall Inks". The phytic acid binds to iron(II) ions, forming iron phytate complexes and inhibiting the iron from accelerating the oxidation process. When followed by a calcium bicarbonate bath both the oxidative degradation caused by the iron (II) ions and the hydrolytic degradation caused by the acidic components are neutralized. In the decades that followed Neevel’s 1995 publication, paper conservators have rigorously tested the procedure for efficacy, as well as short-term and long-term effects. It has proven to be a reliable treatment option with minimal side effects. Despite this, the effect of the phytate treatment on textiles has yet to be tested. This study will not seek to show the efficacy of the phytate treatment in retarding the degradative processes of iron (II), as such has already been proven by the paper conservation field. Rather, it will seek to find any unique results the treatment may have on textiles, specifically cellulosics. Historical samples from study collections testing positive for free iron (II) ions will be treated with both calcium phytate and calcium bicarbonate baths. Changes in the samples will be evaluated empirically and the results assessed.

avatar for Alison Castaneda

Alison Castaneda

Associate Conservator, Museum at FIT
Alison Castaneda holds a M.A. in Fashion and Textile Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is an associate member of the American Institute of Conservation and is the author of multiple posters and presentations, involving synthetic leather, an Islamic talismanic shirt... Read More →

avatar for Callie O'Connor

Callie O'Connor

Student, Fashion Institute of Technology
Callie O’Connor is an Intermittent Conservator in Textiles at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and an MA candidate in Fashion and Textile Studies: History Theory and Museum Practice at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has previously interned in the conservation... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 4:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
Oneida/Penobscot Rooms Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Textiles