Maintaining appropriate temperatures and relative humidity is considered essential to extending the useful life of parchment artifacts. Although the relationship between environmental factors and changes to the physical state of artifacts is reasonably understood, an improved understanding of the relationship between the molecular conformation and changes to the macroscopic condition of parchment is needed to optimize environmental conditions. Using Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR FT-IR) analysis, the conformation of the molecular structure in selected parchment samples with specific macroscopic conditions, typically discoloration and planar deformations (e.g., cockling and tearing), have been made. The results of this investigation showed that the Fourier transform infrared signal differs for parchment samples exhibiting different macroscopic conditions. In areas exhibiting planar deformation, a change in the Fourier Transform Infrared signal was observed that indicates unfolding of the molecular conformation. In comparison, the discolored samples showed a change in molecular conformation that indicates a chemical change within the collagen molecular structure. This paper discusses the possible causal associations and implications of these findings for the conservation and preservation of parchment artifacts.
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