The Preservation Handbook Online

Table of Contents

I. Preservation
II. Assessment
III. Collection Assessment
IV. Agents of Deterioration
V. Monitoring collections
VI. Materials
VII. Storage
VIII. Conservation
IX. Disaster Planning
X. Housekeeping
XI. Resources / Suppliers
XII. Preservation Grants

Agents of Deterioration


Material interaction can accelerate object deterioration and is common when collections are mis-stored or composite objects are present. Each material has it's own chemical and physical properties. Understanding material reactivity and sensitivity is crucial in storage arrangement and composite object care. When caring for composite objects the most sensitive and vulnerable elements will determine environmental storage, treatment, and accessibility of that piece. Some cases of active deterioration require isolated object storage and limits extent of use.


Reactive Materials




Reaction / Damage

wood wood Expansion at different rates, stress, breaks, loosened joints
wood paper Acid migrates from wood: paper becomes brittle, dark, stained
wood textile Acid migrates from wood: textiles become stained, brittle
wood metal Metal corrodes in contact with wood
wood natural fibers Fibers weaken and break
wood paint Wood expands and contracts, paint loosens, flakes
metal metal Possible electrochemical corrosion
metal cloth Metal corrodes, cloth becomes discolored
metal paper Metal corrodes, paper becomes stained
metal paint Metal corrodes, paint loosens, flakes
metal leather Tannins in leather can corrode metal
metal plaster Alkaline materials corrode metal
metal animal glue Glue is acidic, hygroscopic and can corrode certain metals






XXXXII. Adapted from: Hunt, V. R. (1992) Composite objects: Materials and storage conditions. In K. Bachmann's (ed.) Conservation concerns. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. (pp. 133)