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Education and Outreach Programs

Naperville Central High School ESRP 2016

An Inkling” About Historical Documents


  • Students:
    • Rick Li
    • Lucy Wang
  • Teachers:
    • Katherine Seguino
  • Mentors:
    • Volker Rose (Argonne National Laboratory, Advanced Photon Source & Center for Nanoscale Materials)

Center for Nanoscale Materials

The overarching goal of our project is to add to the current body of knowledge regarding interactions between ink—iron gall ink in particular—and paper. Since so many historically valuable documents exist in their original ink-to-paper format, learning about the science behind these documents is vital to both the sciences and the humanities. We targeted this issue in two ways. First, we used the APS to examine a historical document borrowed from a local museum. The document is a letter dated from 1911. It is around fifty years more modern than the piece analyzed last year.

In addition, we also wanted to use an optical microscope to view ink and fiber interactions on a larger scale. We tried to emulate iron gall ink by creating our own, and we tested it on various paper surfaces. Our objective was to figure out what ink looks like underneath a microscope, as well as whether or not certain methods of making ink are more effective than others.

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