No object is frozen in time: Revisiting traditional and nontraditional leather treatments as a collaborative effort

Alexandra Allardt O’Donnell


Examination and treatment of leather artifacts is the subject of debate when the wide degree of variability in the nature of animal skins is overlaid with how the leather has been prepared and its subsequent defined function or method of appreciation as an object. As this durable material ages and is exposed to use and display, maintenance and repair become part of its history adding another level of intricacy. With time a web is spun that often adds numerous layers of materials and techniques (known and unknown) to the current interpretation of how and when to treat the material in its present state.

The past decade has brought greater understanding of how some of these factors work independently and react with one another. With the advance of analytical techniques, the effects of a number of traditional and non-traditional treatments can be more accurately understood. This presentation briefly presents a historical review of a range of treatments and concerns. It emphasizes the importance for detailed documentation and continuing assessment of prior treatments, as well as the need to foster collaborative forward looking efforts.

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1997 | San Diego | Volume 5