PhD Opportunity, Edinburgh, UK

logo Heriot Watt University

The Historical Composition of Transparent Paper: Constitution, Conservation and Deterioration

Methods of making paper transparent date back to the middle ages, methods supplemented and extended across the centuries. The particular characteristics of these processes affect both the properties of the material produced and the functions to which these are put to use.

Various disciplines interested in overlaying, refining and distilling technical and architectural drawings have turned to transparent paper as a support for and carrier of their work. The use of the medium as a tool for producing simple copies is complicated by this observation, and works initiated on translucent supports are often produced in multiple layered variations. Of all the works on paper in institutional stores, technical graphic documents on transparent drawing supports are the most often neglected, untreated, and stored in inappropriate conditions. Folded, rolled, stacked and notoriously difficult to display and curate, these documents call for further attention.

Mechanical damage, coupled with chemical degradation is accentuated in the case mistreated transparent drawing media which typically embrittles and yellows with time. This PhD project seeks to understand the degradation processes that threaten the survival of technical drawings on transparent media through scientific investigations in to the chemical and structural changes that occur over time. The relationship between the original composition of the transparent paper and its molecular integrity will be examined. The impact of conservation treatments on the molecular structure of cellulose within the paper will be assessed to determine their long-term impact.

You will study the history, composition and degradation of these media to determine their underlying salient characteristics and to improve our understandings of chemical interactions and structural changes within curatorial and conservation contexts.

To make an application, please visit

Supervisors: Dr Craig Kennedy (Heriot Watt University) and Laura Harty (Edinburgh College of Art). The student will be registered and primarily based at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, UK.

Funding Notes:
The scholarship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend of approximately £15,009 for the 36 month duration of the project and is available to applicants from the UK, EU and overseas.