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Subject: Storing silk in buffered boxes

Storing silk in buffered boxes

From: Irene F. Karsten <ikarsten<-a>
Date: Friday, November 25, 2005
At the University of Alberta, we are currently planning a new
storage facility for a collection of over 600 East Asian textiles
and 90 Chinese paintings.  This collection includes a large number
of smaller flat textiles primarily made of silk embroidered with
silk and metal threads: rank badges, sleeve bands, textile
fragments, etc.  Many of the scroll paintings are on a silk

We are considering housing small textiles and scrolls in acid-free
cardboard boxes in order to facilitate moving the objects to the new
storage room (in another building) and to facilitate frequent moving
from storage to a research/study area since the collection will be
heavily used for research and teaching.  Ready-made archival boxes
could provide good protection for these artifacts at a reasonable
cost.  They are almost always buffered with an alkaline material
such as calcium carbonate.

My question concerns the effects of the alkaline buffers on silk.
Non-buffered acid-free materials (tissues, boards) are usually
recommended for textiles--for protein fibres especially--to prevent
potential degradation to fibres and dyes.  Although it is true that
immersion in alkaline solutions, particularly strong bases, degrades
silk and wool, I have been unable to find any research on the
effects of adjacency to alkaline buffered materials.  Has anyone
experienced problems with alkaline buffered materials in practice
when used with silk or wool?  Should buffered archival boxes be
avoided for silk materials even if lined with unbuffered materials?
If so, could you suggest better alternatives that are not expensive
in terms of materials and time for construction?

Irene Karsten
Museum Conservator
302 Human Ecology Building
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB Canada T6G 2N1
Fax: 780-492-6185

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:28
                Distributed: Tuesday, November 29, 2005
                       Message Id: cdl-19-28-021
Received on Friday, 25 November, 2005

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