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Subject: Soluble nylon

Soluble nylon

From: Smadar Gabrieli <smadar.gabrieli>
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2007
Kathleen Magill <tcrnkma [at] ucl__ac__uk> writes

>For my dissertation, I'm interested in assessing and re-evaluating
>soluble nylon as a consolidant for vegetable fibres, with a focus on
>objects made with raffia elements. Has anyone had experience with
>application of this consolidant, particularly on plant fibres?  If
>so, how do evaluate the result? Did it age well? Has it remained
>flexible/colourless, etc? Have you noticed any changes through time?

I am somewhat surprised that soluble nylon is being reconsidered for
conservation of organic material.  Initially, when it came into use,
soluble nylon was considered not only stable, but also completely
reversible, and was therefore extremely popular.  It later turned
out that while originally reversible, it cross-links within a few
years, and become irreversible with a tendency to yellow.  It has
completely gone out of use in Australia in the late 1970s, and
unless I have missed some new modifications of its chemistry, I
think it should definitely remain so.

I have worked with two large collections of Australian Aboriginal
artefacts that were extensively treated with soluble nylon during
the 1970s.  Most of the treated objects are bark paintings--they are
definitely stable, in as much that you can throw them around and
nothing will happen to them--their surface looks like plastic, and
feels like plastic.  In some cases the pigment seems to have
continued flaking after application, but it is held rigidly in place
within the by now non-soluble nylon.

The only way I ever found of getting rid of soluble nylon was when a
few barks stored in a drawer were flooded as a result of a leak in
the plumbing system during a weekend, and by the time they were
identified and arrived for treatment, they had grown a thick layer
of mould and fungi--on that occasion, it was possible to peel-off
most of the soluble nylon which largely detached from the painted
image, but I wouldn't recommend it as a standard method :-)

Smadar Gabrieli
objects conservator


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Received on Sunday, 29 April, 2007

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