LightFasTR - Understanding the light-fastness of heritage Turkey red textiles through modern dye chemistry and historical dyeing technology to inform sustainable display and access


LightFasTR seeks to increase physical and creative access to Europe’s most profitable globalised textile of the 19th c. Industrial Revolution - Turkey red (TR) printed cotton. TR was famed for colourful bold patterns on a characteristic bright red background. Many 19th c. TR printed cottons survive within the pages of pattern books as well-preserved, vibrant and creative storyboards of forgotten global trade and cultural connections. Today, exhibitions of these engaging storyboards of forgotten 19th c. global trade and cultural connections attract designers, artists, local residents, schools, local historian and academics alike. Museums and archives want to exhibit these collections and increase access, but need to preserve the colours, especially the characteristic red. The 19th c. TR makers’ claim of excellent light-fastness for the red dye is unproven, raising uncertainty about suitable light levels and exposure times for historical TR textile collections. LightFasTR unites the materials and processes of making 19th c. TR with modern dye chemistry and heritage textile conservation science to provide essential guidance for museums and archives.



Mohammad Shahid, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow


Anita Quye, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Science

Goetz Bucher, Lecturer (Chemistry)


Project Advisory Panel

Julie Wertz, University of Glasgow, UK

Parikshit Goswami, University of Huddersfield, UK

Maarten van Bommel, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands



EU flagThis project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 708740.


March 2017 – March 2019


Research objectives

Preserving this rich and diverse material culture of textiles for exhibitions and study not only raises its cultural significance but ensures that the textile roots of past tradition, creative exchange, entrepreneurship and global trade are visible and can be enjoyed, understood and utilised by present and future generations. More people now want to see and explore TR textiles in museums and archives across Britain and Europe, resulting in curators and archivists needing more information about their TR textiles for collection records, catalogues and exhibitions. The more that TR collections are understood, the more interest they generate, which museums and archives encourage, but because the vibrant colours of TR are so culturally and historically significant, curators, archivists and conservators must control light exposure during exhibitions, study visits and photography for cataloguing to minimise fade and discolouration of the dyes and pigments. LightFasTR project primarily has three objectives to provide museums and archives with light exposure guidelines for TR:

1. Identify materials and methods for British 19th c. TR from historical evidence to investigate TR light-fastness properties of historical and recreated TR

2. Evaluate the photochemical properties of historical TR colorants using state-of-the-art chemical analysis on historical samples and reconstructed models to measure and predict colour changes under museum lighting;

3. Determine the limits of acceptable light exposure time and intensity for TR collections from experimental results to make recommendations for practical and sustainable lighting levels in museums and archives



Research methodology

LightFasTR co-engages scientific and historical research methodologies to:

  1. Recreate historical TR cotton based on production techniques used between 1840 and 1910 involving madder and synthetic dyes.
  2. Investigate the light-fastness of historical Scottish TR cotton through systematic photochemical and analytical studies of the recreated historical textiles using accelerated ageing for predictive modelling of colour changes and light-ageing chemical markers. The chemical components will be analysed  using spectrometry and chromatography to understand the relationship between production method and light-fastness and identify chemical markers
  3. Analyse selected historical Scottish TR collections to identify chemical markers, and compare light-properties to see if it is possible or necessary to rank TR light-fastness by period or maker. 

Turkey red resources in UK

Records of United Turkey Red Co Ltd, dyers and printers



Scottish Business Archives, University of Glasgow

Dumbarton Library, West Dunbartonshire Council

Glasgow Museums


National Museums Scotland


Bradford College Textile Archive


The National Archives

Victoria and Albert Museum


Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives

Manchester City Galleries

Museum of Science and Industry



Historical re-creation of 19th century Turkey red, Chemical Reconstructions Workshop,

13 December 2017, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. 


Turkey red: History, Mystery, and Chemistry, Dyes in History and Archaeology 36,

26-28 October 2017, Royal School of Needlework, London.


Tracing Turkey red in museum and archive collections, Colour in Cloth Conference,

11 April 2017, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.