Historic dyes analysis: method developments and new applications in cultural heritage - NMS Research Repository
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Doctoral thesis

Historic dyes analysis: method developments and new applications in cultural heritage


A review of the main natural dyes (particularly yellow flavonoids and red anthraquinones) and proteinaceous substrates used in Historical Tapestries and North American porcupine quill work was undertaken, and is summarised in Chapter 1. The analysis of natural dyes which have been used on museum artefacts other than textiles has received little systematic study, particularly those of non-European origin. In this research, the use of Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC) for study of natural dyes found on historical textiles and ethnographical objects decorated with porcupine quill work is explored; this required a transfer of existing analytical protocols and methodology. The advantages of using Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC) was evaluated through a method development based on the separation and quantification of ten flavonoid and anthraquinone dyes as described in Chapter 2. These methods were then applied to the characterisation of the dye sources found on a group of sixteenth century historical tapestries which form an important part of the Burrell Collection in Glasgow and are believed to have been manufactured in an English workshop (Chapter 3) and also to the analysis of some late nineteenth century North American porcupine quill work from a collection owned by National Museums Scotland (Chapter 5); allowing exciting conclusions to be drawn in each case about the range of dyestuffs used in their manufacture. The second aim of this research was the development of methodology for the non-invasive quantification of metal ion residues on porcupine quill substrates. This was achieved through a comparative study of reference porcupine quills prepared in-house with dyebaths containing a range of metal ion concentrations (copper and tin). The concentration of metal ions sorbed by the porcupine quills was then quantified with Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) coupled to Optical Emission Spectrometry (OES) and non-invasive Particle Induced X-Ray Emission analysis (PIXE) coupled with Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS) as described in Chapter 4. The responses provided by the different methods were compared and they were then applied to the study of micro-samples collected from mid-nineteenth century Northern Athapaskan porcupine quill work. Unexpectedly, the use of UPLC analysis and RBS-PIXE analysis allowed the characterisation of traded European natural dyes used with metallic mordants (copper and tin) on these samples, highlighting how European contact impacted on traditional Athapaskan porcupine quill work in the late nineteenth century (Chapter 5).


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