Leather and parchments

Leather and parchment both feature prominently in heritage collections, primarily as bookbinding materials in archives and libraries, but also as a writing support for mediaeval texts and manuscripts. They can also be found displayed in myriad forms in museums, as clothing, whether decorative or ritual, such as costumes, musical instruments, wall hangings, etc. Finally, we should remember that in heritage collections wherever stuffed animals or mummies are exhibited, the skin is a component of vital importance. Although both made from animal skin, leather and parchment are two very different materials because of the ways in which they are each prepared. They consequently display differing sensitivities to their environment: they do not deteriorate in the same way. While water and humidity are the main causes of degradation for parchment, leading to distortion and even denaturing of the material, the same is not true for leather, which, because of the tanning process, is particularly sensitive to acidity.


The Leather department works directly with leather preservation and restoration specialists, graphic material and taxidermists, and combines the expertise of chemists, biologists and biochemists. The department’s research is aimed at enhancing knowledge and preservation of leathers by focusing on the following aspects:
•    Identifying the manufacturing method that produced the material (animal species, type of tanning used, decoration, etc.) and its state of conservation
•    Developing new micro- or non-destructive analytical characterization tools
•    Gauging the impact of the surroundings on the material’s deterioration so as to optimize environmental conditions for its preservation
•    Developing and assessing restoration methods

Case studies

Research projects currently in progress:

The team