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Saturday, June 2 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Textiles) Let there be light? An investigation into light-induced changes of the early synthetic aniline dye magenta under indoor lighting conditions

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A major development of the 19th century was the discovery of synthetic textile dyes. The first group was the aniline or coal tar colors, derived originally from chemicals in tar products from combusted coal. These novel dyes gained popularity as they became more economical and efficient than natural dyes, in some instances created brighter and more striking colors. Magenta, also called fuchsine, was one of the first synthetic dyes to gain major commercial success. This vivid red-blue dye was on the market in 1859, the same year that Perkin’s mauveine, an aniline purple, eventually gained major commercial success.

Magenta proved popular for trims and costume embellishments, as well as whole garments. Despite being highly sensitive to light, magenta was desired and accepted as a fashion color until the end of the nineteenth century. It was also useful to the industrial dyers for shading. Today when conservators and curators consider displaying a mid- to late-19th century red-blue textile, there is an expectation is that the dye may be magenta and that the color could fade quickly.

Since light is essential for viewing color, striking the balance between preserving the textile color and providing object access is paramount. This also becomes problematic when the definition of “quick fading” is unclear. Additionally, accounts of magenta fading are historical and in regard to sunlight, not modern museum indoor lighting conditions. All this leads to us asking fundamental questions about the light-sensitivity of magenta in various museum-lighting environments, and how careful should we be when exposing these objects to light?

This paper presents a case study conducted at the University of Glasgow Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History (CTCTAH). It investigates light-induced color and chemical changes of magenta dyed textiles exposed to indoor lighting environments typical within a collection setting. Silk and wool fabrics dyed with commercial magenta (basic form) were exposed in real-time to different scenarios for six weeks. Changes were measured using a spectrophotometer and ultra high performance liquid chromatography coupled with photo diode array detection (UHPLC-PDA). Results indicated that lighting, even in ‘safe’ workrooms and controlled displays can induce color and chemical changes in magenta. Knowledge and awareness that color and chemical changes are possible for magenta within a museum workroom environment are the first steps in addressing the problem of long-term preservation of these objects.

avatar for Michelle Hunter

Michelle Hunter

Michelle Hunter is a recent graduate of the MPhil Textile Conservation program at the University of Glasgow Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History (CTCTAH). She has worked in private conservation in the United States and was the 2017-2018 postgraduate intern in... Read More →

avatar for Anita Quye

Anita Quye

Senior Lecturer, Univeristy of Glasgow
Anita Quye is the CTCTAH Senior Lecturer for Conservation Science, with research interests in natural and synthetic dyes, and synthetic fibres and plastics. Prior to her academic post she was the organic analytical scientist at National Museums Scotland.

Saturday June 2, 2018 3:00pm - 3:30pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston

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