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Subject: Human hair

Human hair

From: Paul Storch <paul.storch<-a>
Date: Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Karin Abelskamp <k.abelskamp<-a t->archeologie< . >nl> writes

>During an excavation of a number of late 17th/early 18th century
>funeral vaults in a church, a piece of human hair braid was found in
>a knuckle pit.  The piece is approximately 10 cm long and consists
>of three locks of hair braided.  It has been found and kept dry and
>although it is dirty, it looks relatively well preserved and still
>feels flexible and is easy to handle.  Here and there, hair is
>peeping out of the braid.  I have no experience with (human) hair so
>now I wonder what would be wise to do after cleaning.  Do I need to
>apply a passivation polymer, a consolidant such as silicone oil or a
>PEG?  Or maybe PVAc?

Any further treatment past mechanically cleaning the surface and as
much of the interior of the braided structure as possible would be
determined by the condition and future 'use' of the item.  From what
you stated--flexible and easy to handle, I would say that polymer
consolidants are not needed for stabilization.  The most critical
factors in preserving it are proper handling and storage
conditions--stable temperature and RH in the ranges for
protein-based organic materials, protection from light and UV
exposure, and protection from insect infestations--particularly
dermestids and moths.  Had it been recovered from a wet or
waterlogged location, then pre-treatment with a bulking agent such
as PEG/glycerine and freeze-drying might have been indicated.

Paul S. Storch
Project Specialist III /Sites Collections and Exhibits Liaison
Facilities-Historic Properties Department
Facilities and Risk Management Division
Minnesota Historical Society
345 Kellogg Blvd. West
Saint Paul, MN 55102-1906

                  Conservation DistList Instance 28:23
                Distributed: Thursday, November 6, 2014
                       Message Id: cdl-28-23-005
Received on Tuesday, 4 November, 2014

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