What is a microbiome?
A microbiome describes all the tiny living things that make up a system. Made of organic material and having survived hundreds of years, the Dragon Prayer Book is a very unique microbiome for us to study. We use a combination of techniques adapted from microbiology and art conservation in order to build a profile of the microorganisms living in the pages and binding of the book.
What are we looking for?
Some bacteria and fungi leave behind evidence of having existed. These molecular fossils are called biosignatures, and the presence of biosignatures or of the microorganisms themselves may alter the appearance of the book. First, we select pages showing a particular quality (e.g. wrinkling, staining, etc.). Then, via DNA extraction and analysis, we identify microorganisms sampled from the book to distinguish the biogenic alterations of the book's materials.