Iron gall ink challenges - History and Conservation of a disappearing cultural heritage

Cofinanciado por:
Acronym | IRONIC
Project title | Iron gall ink challenges - History and Conservation of a disappearing cultural heritage
Project Code | PTDC/ART-HIS/32327/2017
Main objective | Reforçar a Investigação, o desenvolvimento tecnológico e a inovação

Region of intervention | Alentejo, Lisboa

Beneficiary entity |
  • Universidade Nova de Lisboa - Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas(líder)
  • Universidade de Évora(parceiro)

Approval date | 23-03-2018
Start date | 03-10-2018
Date of the conclusion | 02-10-2021
Date of extension | 02-10-2022

Total eligible cost | 239702 €
European Union financial support |
National/regional public financial support | República Portuguesa - 239702 €


IRONIC, a multi and interdisciplinary project, combines a diversity of fields such as history, written culture, archiving and conservation science, restoration, chemistry and nanotechnology. The scope of this project is to develop an innovative nanotechnology-based kit for the treatment at point-of-care of the iron gall ink corrosion process. Being the main ink used in Europe since the 5th century, found on manuscripts, music scores, drawings, letters, maps, and official documents such as wills, bookkeeping records, logs, real estate transactions, etc., its study is crucial to avoid the continuous loss of Cultural Heritage kept in archives, libraries, museums and private collections. This project will allow to gather and to study the information about archival conservation issues since the 14th century, the creation time of Torre do Tombo, an institution that would originate the actual National Archive of Torre do Tombo (ANTT). Special care will be given to the ?Archive of Archive?, the main reference about the institution procedures. Also, for previous periods, the collection Drawers and Registro Geral de Mercês will be analysed in order to identify appointments criteria of their staff and action protocols within the archive. This documentation will probably act as a proof of a long-term concern for European societies. Associated to State formation processes, by correlating the power theories with the development of archiving and conservation sciences, showing that it was not a fundamental issue for cultural heritage, but a demonstration of the State's interest in preserving 'valuable' reputed information, in the bureaucratic-administrative domain. IRONIC will identify and characterize the alteration of the inks used in the selected dated manuscripts from ANTT. Assembling those data with the ones that will be obtained from recreated ink historical recipes, standard samples mimicking the historic ones will be reproduced, changing some established parameters, the stroke for instance, and artificially aged. This aging will allow to better understanding the corrosion process in its different phases, and to act against the problem. The advantages that nanotechology has brought to other fields last years, will be used in Cultural Heritage. The polyoxometalates (POMs for short) for catalytic and biomedical purposes, could be used as radical scavengers that, upon encapsulation in polymeric scaffolds, will stop and prevent further long-term corrosion of the ink. Therefore, IRONIC will also develop the IRONIC kit, a new treatment which will be an important and reference tool made available to the worldwide Conservators and keepers to better preserve the documental cultural heritage. The unique combination of problem (Cultural Heritage conservation) and solution (Anticorrosive Nanohybrid Materials), together with the well-defined project work plan and objectives means that IRONIC has the potential for excellence.

Objectives, activities and expected/achieved results

The scope and primary objective of this project is to develop an innovative nanotechnology-based kit for the treatment at point-of-care of the iron gall ink corrosion process which occurs in a range of different cultural heritage documents ranging from manuscripts, music scores, drawings, letters and maps to official documents such as wills, bookkeeping records, logs and real estate transactions, etc.

The second objective is to gather and study the available information about archival conservation issues since the 14th century, as a proof of a long-term concern for European societies, associated to State formation processes.



1. Assembling historical manuscripts stating conservation issues

2. Contextualizing conservation practices: politics and agents of the Archive

3. Identification and selection of manuscripts with iron gall ink corrosion

4. Characterization of the iron gall ink from the manuscripts selected in task 3

5. Iron gall ink production according to written sources

6. Identification and characterization of the corrosion process

7. Synthesis and encapsulation of POM's

8. Treatment method development - proof-of-concept

9. Treatment kit development and validation

10. Publications and dissemination

11. International meeting and exhibition