As the art conservation field grows and gains more of a scientific footing, our understanding and concern increases for artifacts that date from the last 100 years. Many of these items contain modern materials (i.e.man-made paints and plastics, semi-synthetic and synthetic textile fibers, digital media.) Modern materials can deteriorate rapidly due to their manufacturing and proximity to/mixture with other materials. The inherent vices in these materials can be exacerbated by inappropriate storage and display conditions. Two new MTS Handouts written by MTS Conservator Kayla Silvia are now available to download and distribute:
Modern Materials in Textile and Costume Collections & Assessing Modern Materials.
Modern materials can be identified using non-destructive and destructive means. The simplest non-destructive techniques are to use the appearance and odor of the artifact and its parts to identify its composition. Examine the material’s look, feel, surface, weight, pattern, style, sound when gently tapped, and smell when rubbed. However, odor given off by modern materials can be subjective (see Assessing Modern Materials handout). FTIR is a non-destructive analytical technique that has been commonly used to identify the polymers in modern materials. Other analytical techniques that can be used are GC-MS, XRF, SEM-EDX, and FT-Raman.
The chart below will help in the identification and assessment of modern materials.
Due to the risks to museum collections from modern materials used in fabrics and clothing accessories, you should consider storing them separately from other textile materials when possible.
Visit the Resources section of the MTS Website for more helpful MTS Handouts.