Large-scale assessment of light-induced color change in air and anoxic environments

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Beltran, Vincent L.; Druzik, James; Maekawa, Shin;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 57, Number 1, p.42-57 (2012)


A wide-ranging sample set consisting of dry pigments, dyed textiles, organic and aniline-based dyes, gouaches and watercolors, fluorescent inks, and natural history specimens was exposed to light in air (20.9% oxygen) and near-anoxic environments. After a light dosage of approximately 17.5 Mlux-hours under controlled temperature and humidity conditions, 113 of 125 samples (90% of the sample set) were shown to exhibit less color change in a low-oxygen environment compared with its behavior in air. Thirty-nine percent of this subset displayed color change in anoxia that was between two and four times lower than that observed in air, whereas 47% showed color change in anoxia reduced by a factor of four or more. In contrast, six samples exhibited greater color change in anoxia than in air ‐ these samples included Prussian blue watercolor (three samples), Antwerp blue watercolor, Verdigris dry pigment, and Fluorescent Yellow Winsor & Newton Gouache. Although the results from this small sample subset may cause concern when considering the use of anoxia in the conservation of cultural heritage, particularly for colorant systems whose behavior in anoxia has not yet been identified, this study demonstrates the overwhelming benefits of anoxic light exposure for the vast majority of samples investigated here.