The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 12, Number 6
Sep 1988


Parylene Made Available for Conservation

Union Carbide Corporation and Nova Tram Corporation (a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Carbide) have launched a very ambitious program which will help to evaluate the potential of parylene gas phase polymer technology in conservation.

The program will include the loan of four to six parylene deposition systems to research institutions and/or libraries with conservation research facilities, who have some means of regularly disseminating the results of their research to the conservation community at large. Technical assistance to the institutions selected will be provided by Bruce Humphrey, who introduced this technology to the conservation field and developed the process for parylene

strengthening of bound books. (A recent article of his is "Vapor Phase Consolidation of Books with the Parylene Polymers," Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 25(1), Spring 1986, p. 15-29).

There are two major directions to the effort. The first involves investigations into the feasibility of using parylene technology as a mass treatment for the strengthening of brittle books and other cellulosic materials. It has already been demonstrated that parylene will strengthen and protect embrittled or weakened books. The next steps are scaling up the process so that significant numbers of volumes can be treated at one time, and reducing the cost of the parylene to make mass treatment economically feasible.

Union Carbide and Nova Tram currently have research programs under way in both these areas, and significant progress has already been made. A new process for parylene resin manufacture has been found and a pilot plant is already in operation. Construction will begin on a prototype large-scale treatment system in the second half of 1988.

The second major direction of the program is the preservation and/or strengthening of objects of all kinds. This work will be done in conjunction with major museums having a broad range of materials preservation problems.

Systems Installed

The first parylene system was installed at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa early in June, and their formal program began the first week in August. Four CCI people were trained on the operation of the system and many projects are scheduled, the most interesting of which is the consolidation of 40 million year old plant material discovered in the Arctic in unfossilized condition and therefore very fragile. David Grattan, Sr., Conservation Scientist at CCI, is in charge of the program there.

The Getty Conservation Institute is administering a program in conjunction with the British Columbia Provincial Museum in Victoria. Union Carbide/Nova Tram provides equipment and technical support for treatment of ethnographic materials: botanical and insect specimens used in educational programs, deteriorated leather, and so on.

Programs planned

Other programs involving the loan of parylene systems are currently in the planning phase with the following institutions:

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