An investigation of weighted and degraded silk by complementary microscopy techniques

Paul Garside, Graham Mills, James R Smith, Paul Wyeth

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A number of silk samples, comprising historic materials and modern surrogates, were examined by light, electron and atomic force microscopy, to determine the extent to which such assessments would allow the nature and condition of the materials to be determined. The integrity of these materials had previously been investigated using mechanical testing. Signs of deterioration, such as surface debris, defibrillation and micro-fractures were readily observed, but when these features were compared to the overall deterioration of the samples (as assessed by tensile strength), it became apparent that obvious surface damage did not necessarily correspond to overall levels of deterioration and that many samples which appeared in good condition under microscopic examination were in fact heavily degraded. This will have implications for the assessment of these materials, as microscopy will not necessarily reveal how well an artefact may stand up to the rigours of handling, display and conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
Journale-Preservation Science
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • silk
  • AFM
  • textiles
  • conservation
  • microscopy
  • SEM


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