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Early synthetic dyes

Research into the history and application of early synthetic dyes.

This research into the history, identification and ageing behaviour of synthetic dyestuffs aimed to acquire more insight into colour use in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Part of the reference collection of synthetic dyes, RCE.

Part of the reference collection of synthetic dyes, RCE.

The study of early synthetic dyes is particularly important because many of these dyes were developed and applied during the second half of the 19th century where historical information is often lacking: how and how often were the dyes used, what is their behaviour, especially with ageing? As a result the original manifestation of the object remains unclear. That makes it impossible to place objects from this period in context in terms of appearance and fabrication. In addition, the understanding of management measures and conservation options are limited. The RCE is currently globally advanced in this research area.


In recent years, much research has taken place into early synthetic dyes. In the period 1850-1900 natural dyes were replaced by synthetic dyes, of which hundreds were developed. The RCE examined the 65 most important, from all dye classes in that period. This multidisciplinary research included several sub-projects.