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Conservation, preparation and imaging of diverse ambers and their inclusions

Abstract : Amber, a natural polymer, is fossil tree resin derived from diverse botanical sources with varying chemical compositions. As such, all amber is susceptible to the effects of light, temperature, relative humidity, and oxygen, as well as exposure to certain chemicals, and will deteriorate over time in collections if left unprotected. Here we review approaches for the conservation, preparation, and imaging of amber specimens and their inclusions, and address indications and causes of amber degradation, as well as recommendations for a suitable storage environment. We also provide updated preparation and embedding protocols, discuss several techniques for imaging inclusions, and address digitization efforts. A stable storage environment is essential to mitigate or avoid deterioration of amber, which often manifests as crazing, spalling, breaking and colour changes. Based on previous conservation studies of fossil resins, we generally recommend storage in a climate-monitored environment with a relative humidity of ca. 50%, 18 °C, and stress that light exposure must be kept to a minimum. For stabilization and anoxic sealing, amber specimens should ideally be embedded in an artificial epoxide resin (EpoTek 301-2 or similar is currently recommended). Amber should not be treated with or stored in vegetable or mineral oils (even for a short time for examination or photography), or come into contact with alcohol, disinfecting agents, hydrogen peroxide, or other destructive solvents or mixtures, since any of these materials can irreversibly damage the amber. Most photography of inclusions for research and digitization purposes can be successfully accomplished using light microscopy. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is sometimes used to uncover fine details, but is an invasive method. However, X-ray based methods (utilizing micro computed tomography, or micro-CT) are becoming more frequently used and increasingly indispensable in the examination of minute internal structures of inclusions, and to fully visualize important structures in opaque amber. Micro-CT makes it possible to digitize an inclusion three-dimensionally, and thus enables digital specimen ‘loans.’ Light microscopal images are still widely used in the digitization of amber specimens and are an essential alternative to micro-CT imaging when resources or time are limited. Overall, due to the vulnerability of all fossil resins, we recommend that conservation of amber samples and their inclusions be prioritized.
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Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 11:51:43 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 10:53:10 PM
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Eva-Maria Sadowski, Alexander Schmidt, Leyla Seyfullah, Mónica Solórzano-Kraemer, Christian Neumann, et al.. Conservation, preparation and imaging of diverse ambers and their inclusions. Earth-Science Reviews, Elsevier, 2021, 220, pp.103653. ⟨10.1016/j.earscirev.2021.103653⟩. ⟨insu-03219266⟩



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