From Structural Change to Perceived Damage: Appropriate Environmental Conditions for Parchment

Lead Research Organisation: The National Archives
Department Name: Collection Care


Heritage plays a vital role in the cultural and economic well-being of our society. It is part of our culture, our history, our lucrative tourism industry and forms part of our legacy to pass onto future generations. This fellowship will help understand how the storage conditions contribute to the decay of part of our heritage - historic documents.

The fellowship proposed aims to carry out interdisciplinary research to measure the structural changes that can occur in parchment at different temperatures and relative humidities. It is sole purpose to develop an understanding of how different levels of damage - that make up a historic parchment- are intrinsic to the rate of decay of the document. Appropriate guidelines can then be established on how best to preserve and store historic parchments.

The hosting institute- The National Archives- will allow access to historic parchments housed in their archives. This will give an unprecedented review of the range of damage found in historic parchments. The partner institute - Cardiff Imaging Institute- will provide the facilities needed to measure the structural changes that occur within historic parchments at a range of temperature and relative humidites.

The fellowship will include in its activities a series of seminars and workshops that are aimed at engaging conservators to become interested in the findings of the project, and, analysing the practical ways of researching how preservation techniques can contribute to the rate of decay of a historic parchment. The project intends to disseminate the findings as a manual, that has the potential to inform archives and institutions worldwide.

Planned Impact

This research aims to produce scientific data to guide and improve standards for the conservation and preservation of parchment artefacts.

Cultural heritage collections: this research will guide the storage of historic parchments with different degrees of damage..

Policy makers and managers - will have a scientific base from which they can direct storage solutions of historical parchments.

Conservators - will have a science based analysis to inform treatment decisions.

Academic communities - this project will generate data regarding the structural and conformational changes of collagen in parchment at varying temperatures and humidity. This will inform scientific communities about collagen interactions in parchment. The project will also generate data regarding preservation techniques..

The public - will benefit, because providing storage conditions that reduce the perpetuation of decay thus enhancing the life of an object and making it available to future generations

The success of this project can be evaluated by the use of the data by archives and conservators. The main components of our strategy to ensure that the intended users utilise the information we present are:

Working with networks of practitioners, learners and other to deliver, transform and communicate the research evidence to the widest possible number of their peers, and to convince practitioners to apply our recommendations in practise;

Engage with a wide range of user organisations to embed the aims, approaches and findings of this project in the cultural context of both research and practitioner communities;

Contributing to (and where appropriate organising and leading) strategic debates about storage and preservation best practise;

Communicating conceptual, methodological and practical approaches to historical parchment storage solutions;

Facilitating the learning and co-operation opportunities generated by discussion of the project outcomes, and to develop strategies for the practical advancement of parchment research.


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