Determination of the polymer composition of mid-twentieth century purses by Raman spectroscopy

Mary N. Boyden, Elyse M. Kleist, Courtney K. Asztalos, Timothy M. Korter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A database was constructed of 134 reference plastic samples and their Raman spectra to aid in the rapid and accurate identification of the polymer composition of mid-twentieth century plastic purses and their component parts from the Plastics Artifacts Collection at Syracuse University Libraries. Work began by making and testing the database, which led to the determination that matching artifact spectra to reference sample spectra worked well for artifact spectra having signal-to-noise ratios down to 30:1. This finding allowed for using reduced laser power as necessary to protect delicate and pigmented artifacts. These studies enabled the definitive chemical identification of seven selected artifacts, showing that the majority are composed of single plastics including polystyrene, poly(methyl methacrylate), or cellulose acetate. However, it was discovered that one of the purses was composed of both poly(methyl methacrylate) and cellulose acetate. The compositions of three artifacts of unknown composition were discovered, corrections to the existing records were made for three other artifacts, and the composition of one artifact was confirmed. This decisive study will contribute to the archival processing and preservation of these artifacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101
JournalHeritage Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Cellulose acetate
  • Plastic
  • Poly(methyl methacrylate)
  • Polymer
  • Polystyrene
  • Purse
  • Raman spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Spectroscopy


Dive into the research topics of 'Determination of the polymer composition of mid-twentieth century purses by Raman spectroscopy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this