Hyperspectral imaging was originally developed for remote sensing and astronomical applications, but adaptations of this technology have been of great benefit to the preservation of cultural heritage. Developments in noninvasive analytical techniques have advanced the preservation of cultural heritage materials by enabling the identification and analysis of a range of materials, utilizing their unique spectral response to nondestructively determine chemical composition, and determining states of deterioration and change due to environmental conditions. When used as a tool for noninvasive characterization of cultural heritage, these spectral imaging systems allow the collection of chemical identification information about materials without sampling, which is a critical factor for cultural heritage materials. The United States Library of Congress has been developing the application of hyperspectral imaging to the preservation and analysis of cultural heritage materials as a powerful noncontact technique. It allows noninvasive characterization of materials, by identifying and characterizing colorants, inks, and substrates with narrow-band illumination to protect the object while also monitoring deterioration or changes due to exhibit and other environmental conditions. Contiguous illumination from the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared spectral regions allows the capture of lost, obscured, and deteriorated information. The resulting image cube allows greater capabilities for mapping and coordinating a range of complementary chemical and spectral analyses. The capabilities of this technique are illustrated by a review of results from analysis of the Waldseemüller World Map, the L'Enfant plan for Washington, D.C., and the first draft of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

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