New Research on Iron Gall Ink
Date: October 11, 2012
Location: Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, DC
View video (152 minutes)
|Time Marker||Topic and Speaker|
|00:00||Welcome and Introduction|
Mark Sweeney, Director, Preservation, Library of Congress
|03:30||A Complex Problem: Elucidation of Iron Gall Ink Chemistry Through Collaborative Research [PDF: 13 MB / 13 pp.] |
Lynn Brostoff, Preservation Reserach and Testing Division, Library of Congress
|20:45||New Insights into the Chemistry and Structure of Iron Gall Ink [PDF: 3 MB / 18 pp.]
Aldo A. Ponce, Visiting Scientist, Library of Congress
|47:45||Iron Gall Ink Corrosion of Historical Documents Probed by X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy [PDF: 5 MB / 18 pp.] |
Karen J. Gaskell, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Maryland - College Park
Aldo Ponce, Visiting Scientist, Library of Congress
Lynn Brostoff, Preservation Research and Testing Division, Library of Congress
|1:19:40||Two Dimensional EPR Imaging of Mixed Oxidation States in Iron Gall Ink Containing Papers: Towards a Treatment Evaluation Methodology
Richard C. Wolbers, Art Conservation Department, University of Delaware
Anthony F. Lagalante, Department of Chemistry, Villanova University
Background: Prior to the 20th Century, iron gall ink (IGI) was the most common ink in the western world and a plethora of recipes from which to produce the dark, permanent ink can be found starting from the Middle Ages. The historical recipes have three basic ingredients in common: iron salt, usually ferrous sulfate; plant tannins extracted from materials such as oak tree galls; and a binder such as gum arabic that keeps particles in suspension and helps the ink to flow. The essence of this ink's indelibility resides in the blue-black metallo-organic complex formed between iron and tannic acid. While the virtue of IGI lies in its lightfast properties, the great vice of IGI lies in its tendency to degrade paper and parchment substrates. This has resulted in a preservation problem of immense proportions: degrading IGI-containing historical and artistic works make up huge portions of museum, archive, and library collections worldwide, including iconic artifacts such as George Washington's first inaugural address and the drawings of Van Gogh.
The Library's Conservation Division (CD) has led an organized effort to conduct treatment assessment for IGI-containing documents since the late 1990s. At this time, new research in Europe had established some basic hypotheses concerning IGI chemistry, which led to proposal of new strategies for the preservation of IGI-containing works. Recently, the Library's Preservation Research & Testing Division (PRTD) initiated IGI research in collaboration with scientists at the University of Maryland - College Park and at the Catholic University of America; this research complements on-going CD efforts by endeavoring to elucidate some poorly understood aspects of IGI chemistry. Colleagues at the University of Delaware and at Villanova University also have begun new investigations into IGI.
The Preservation Directorate hopes that these research efforts will advance the world's understanding of IGI and ultimately lead to more targeted treatments for degrading artifacts. This event was generously co-sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
In these presentations, Dr. Brostoff and her collaborators Dr. Ponce and Dr. Gaskell presented new scientific research that overturns some long-held ideas about both the molecular structure of the principal iron gall ink complex and the concept that the main problem with iron gall ink stability is the initial presence of excess iron sulfate in the historical recipe. Prof. Richard Wolbers' and Dr. Anthony Lagalante's talk complemented these lectures in that it, too, challenged the notion that current treatments based on calcium phytate salts are innocuous and optimized for current application. In this way, the symposium achieved its main objective, which was to challenge conservators and scientists to re-examine some common assumptions and to open dialogue about these ideas.
The 3-hour symposium was webcast live so that conservators and cultural heritage scientists could attend either in person or remotely. Seventy-seven registrants attended the symposium in person, which was capacity for the appointed theater at the Library, and 108 registrants joined via the live webcast. The discussion immediately following the lectures was very lively and initiated a very interesting follow-up round table discussion the next day, which was attended in person by ten conservators and nine scientists from local institutions, as well as five scientists via phone. Three of these distinguished scientists phoned in from abroad -- from Slovenia, France, and Canada. The lectures were filmed and the round table discussion was recorded; these and a summary of the symposium will be available in the coming months.
The Library sincerely thanks the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for their generous support of this event.
About the Speakers:
Dr. Lynn B. Brostoff is a senior Research Chemist and Analytical Services Liaison in the Library of Congress Preservation Research and Testing Division, where she has worked since 2008. She previously held conservation science positions at the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute, the Carnegie Mellon University Artists' Materials Center, the National Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Dr. Aldo A. Ponce is an analytical and synthetic chemist who is currently a Visiting Scientist in the Library of Congress PRTD. He recently completed a post-doctoral position in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland at College Park. He has been collaborating with PRTD on iron gall ink research since 2011.
Dr. Karen J. Gaskell is Associate Research Scientist and Director of the Surface Analysis Center in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland at College Park. She has been collaborating with PRTD on iron gall ink research since 2010.
Prof. Richard C. Wolbers is a tenured Associate Professor, Coordinator of Science, Adjunct Paintings Conservator in the Art Conservation Department in the University of Delaware, where he has taught since September 1988.
Dr. Anthony F. Lagalante is Associate Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at Villanova University, where he has taught since 2004. Since 2010, he has also been an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware.
Additional Information about Iron Gall Ink:
- Iron Gall Ink Research in the Preservation Directorate
- Washington's First Inaugural Address and Conservation Treatment of Washington's First Inaugural Address in the Preservation Directorate
- Conservation Treatment of Iron Gall Ink in the Preservation Directorate
- The Iron Gall Ink Website