Fungal bioreceptivity of Japanese tissue papers treated with plant dyes, watercolours, and acrylic paints in paper conservation

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Somayeh Soleymani; Jeffrey Aalders; Michelle E. Gahan; Tracy Ireland; Dennis McNevin;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 62, Number 2, p.104-113 (2017)


Despite substantial literature on the dyeing of textiles, there is a lack of research about colouring Japanese mending papers (tissue papers) used for paper conservation purposes. This study investigates the fungal bioreceptivity of Japanese tissue papers after they have been treated with various dyes and pigments. A variety of toning materials including plant dyes, watercolours, acrylic paints, inks, pastels, gouaches, and colour pencils are commonly used by conservators for paper toning purposes. In this study, two Japanese tissue papers (Yukyu-shi and Sekishu Mare) were treated with selected plant dyes, watercolours, and acrylic paints and then inoculated with fungal species. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used to quantify the DNA from Aspergillus niger and Penicillium rubrum as a proxy for fungal species abundance before and after inoculation and artificial moist heat ageing. qPCR primers which were universal for fungi amplified DNA from papers inoculated with A. niger and P. rubrum and these species were found to grow less on treated Sekishu Mare and Yukyu-shi papers compared with untreated papers. Sekishu Mare papers treated with artists' acrylic paints were found to be more resistant to fungal growth than similarly treated Yukyu-shi papers. This study suggests that for the best long-term preservation outcomes for paper materials in archives, libraries, galleries, and museums, acrylic paints generally perform better in conservation terms than most plant dyes and watercolours, although most colourants displayed some bioinhibition.