Developing a noninvasive method to assess the degraded state of historical parchments is essential to providing the best possible care for these documents. The conformational changes observed when collagen molecules, the primary constituent of parchment, unfold have been analyzed using attenuated total reflection–Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FT-IR) spectroscopy and the nanoscopic structural changes have been analyzed using X-ray diffraction (XRD). The relationship between the results obtained from these techniques was studied using principal component analysis, where correlation was found. The extent of gelatinization of historical parchments has been assessed using ATR-FT-IR and XRD and the frequency shifts observed as collagen degrades into gelatin have been reported. These results indicate that collagen degradation can be measured noninvasively in parchment and demonstrate the utility of ATR-FT-IR spectroscopy as a method to investigate historical documents.

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