Degradation of collagen in parchment under the influence of heat-induced oxidation: Preliminary study of changes at macroscopic, microscopic, and molecular levels

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Kathleen Mühlen Axelsson; René Larsen; Dorte V.P. Sommer; Rikke Melin;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 61, Number 1, p.46-57 (2016)


This paper examines the impact of heat-induced oxidation for new and historical parchment with the purpose of improving diagnostic tools for use in practical parchment conservation. Oxidation was generated by heat aging at 120°C in a dry oven for 24, 48, and 96 hours, respectively. The degradation was assessed on all samples at macrolevel by measuring color changes, at microlevel by measuring the shrinkage temperature as well as by performing a visual assessment of the fibers’ morphology and determining the amount of damaged fibers, and finally, at molecular level where amino acid analysis was used to reveal changes in the oxidized collagen. The study shows that the heat-induced oxidation leads to significant color changes, decrease in hydrothermal stability, as well as changes in the amino acid composition. Surprisingly, the results show that the historical parchment is more sensitive towards dry heat oxidation on a molecular level than is the new parchment. Furthermore, for the first time, we can show that physical damage reflected in the morphological characteristics of fibers can be attributed to oxidation by dry heat.