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For this workshop, participants will be investigating the various uses of historic dyes and
their associated chemical properties. This inquiry-based workshop will engage
participants in laboratory experimentation into the various steps of the dyeing process and
the use of modern chemical understanding to explain the findings of the laboratory
experiments. We will discuss historical and cultural relevance of natural dyes. The
workshop will begin by using some historical dyeing processes, an art-form that has been
practiced for thousands of years across nearly every culture. Background information will
be provided on the chemical and biological significance of each step in order to explain
the laboratory results they will observe in the laboratory experience. The laboratory
component will consist of experimentation on the major steps found in the dyeing
process, starting with extraction and preparation of a dye from the natural source (such as
tree bark or a flower petal), combining either the dye (or fabric) with a mordant to aid in
the uptake of dye into the fabric/material, (pre/post/non-mordanting), as well as the use of
various materials (cotton vs. nylon) and their ability to bond with the dye. A key feature
of this inquiry-based laboratory component will be the use of null experiments that allow
participants to firsthand observe a non-expected outcome, an important part of any
modern scientific process. Lastly, the participants will be asked to reflect upon a set of
questions that provide ample follow-up discussion material that link together the
historical background with the laboratory experiments. This discussion will include
qualitative observations from the laboratory, as well as chemical/biological concepts such
as bonding, inter-molecular forces, and kinetics.
Art conservation involves “the application of chemistry to the technical examination,
authentication, and preservation of cultural property. Chemists working in museums
engage in a broad range of investigations, most frequently studying the chemical
composition and structure of artifacts, their corrosion products, and the materials used in
their repair, restoration, and conservation. The effects of the museum environment,
including air pollutants, fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity, biological
activity, and ultraviolet and visible illumination, represent a second major area of
research. A third area of interest is the evaluation of the effectiveness, safety, and long-term
stability of materials and techniques for the conservation of works of art. Though
analytical techniques appear to dominate, many other areas of chemistry, biology,
physics, and engineering, including polymer chemistry, kinetic studies, imaging
methodologies, biodegradation studies, dating methods, computer modeling,
metallography, and corrosion engineering, play active roles in conservation science." (<https://www.accessscience.com/content/art-conservation-chemistry/052250>)
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Jocelyn Alcántara-GarcíaProfessorUD Art Conservation
Professor Jocelyn Alcántara-García joined
the Winterthur Museum Scientific Research
and Analysis Laboratory Conservation
program in the fall of 2014 after working for
about five years in interdisciplinary projects
(predominantly in Mexico, where she was
born). All projects were conducted in close
collaboration with conservators and
scientists, and included the examination of
iron gall inks, archaeological organic
materials and seashells, research on
degradation of certain conservation and
restoration materials, investigation for the
development of novel methodologies for
paper stabilization as well as identification of
binding media in pre-Columbian wall
paintings and non-destructive examination of
Dr. Zachary Voras is a Preceptor in the
Interdisciplinary Science Learning
Laboratories. He earned his Ph.D. in analytical
chemistry from the University of Delaware in
2017. He worked closely with colleagues in the
Art Conservation program particularly in the
use of advanced spectroscopic techniques. He
recently published: “Comparison of Oil and Egg
Tempera Paint Systems using Time-of- Flight
Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS)”
in Studies in Conservation.