Project facts

Duration: 2022-01-01 - 2024-12-31
Project coordinator: Heritage Science Laboratory Ljubljana at UL Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology
Project consortium: ARCHES (AntweRp Cultural HEritage Sciences); MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp; Narodni muzej Slovenije – National Museum of Slovenia, Ljubljana
Funding bodies: N1-250, WEAVE programme in collaboration between FWO (The Research Foundation – Flanders) and ARRS (Slovenian Research Agency)
Subject areas: Conservation, Heritage values - Identity, Intangible Heritage, Methods - Procedures, Preventive conservation, Restoration


As one of the most important industrial sectors from the middle ages to the first industrial revolution, the manufacture and dyeing of textiles plays a pivotal role in the West European history of technology. This is reflected in a vast number of textile objects preserved in heritage collections, ranging from everyday clothing and (composite) accessories (e.g. shoes, fans, shawls) to luxurious goods such as tapestries. However, in spite of its exceptional properties as a textile fiber, silk is generally regarded as the natural fiber that is the most vulnerable to degradation. In fact, weighted silks are by far the most rapidly degrading materials in heritage collections.

Impacts & Results

The project goals are:

To understand, prevent and treat metal salt-induced silk degradation,

To develop analytical techniques to model sil degradation,

To safeguard the large number of degrading historical silk objects in museum collections

Planned research:

Unraveling the degradation pathways and assessing the influence of various harmful internal and external parameters by producing self-synthetized and artificially aged equivalents of historical material, followed by their chemical characterization,

The validity of the insights obtained on these ‘mock-ups’ will be benchmarked by analysis of a number of historical study objects. The results will be incorporated into a hands-on decision tool for the everyday collection management of a museum, via the development of a ‘damage function’,

Finally, the aptness of two enzyme treatments, recently developed for industry, will be evaluated for the consolidation of degrading historical silk fabrics.


Cover image "Dyed silk" by ingermaaike2 is marked with CC BY 2.0.