Blog – Disaster Recovery, Document Recovery, Fire and Smoke Damage, Mold Damage, Water and Storm Damage

Safeguarding Heritage: Preventing the Top 10 Agents of Deterioration

Arguably, the cornerstone of safeguarding archives and collections lies in prevention, which makes understanding potential threats crucial. This is why The Canadian Museum of Nature and the Canadian Conservation Institute have compiled a list of the top 10 agents of deterioration, identifying the primary hazards to historical objects. This compilation aims to assist in preventing and protecting valuable collections, whether housed in museums or homes.

Recognizing these threats empowers collectors to develop comprehensive, long-term preservation strategies. The 10 agents are water, fire, pests, physical force, theft and vandalism, temperature, humidity, pollutants, light exposure, and neglect.

  1. Water: While water exposure alone may not cause immediate damage, large quantities from events like floods can lead to saturation, fragility, soiling, and mold growth.
  2. Fire: Fires can result in complete collection loss, with damage from smoke soot deposits and water used in extinguishing adding to the destruction.
  3. Pests: Mold and invertebrates such as moths, carpet beetles, and rodents, pose significant threats by consuming or damaging collections.
  4. Physical Force: Swift forces, such as accidents or natural disasters, and prolonged exposure, like repeated handling or vibrations, can cause breaks and loss in collections.
  5. Theft and Vandalism: Criminal acts, whether planned or opportunistic, can lead to total artifact loss or damage.
  6. Temperature: Extreme temperatures can accelerate chemical reactions, soften materials, or cause hazing and cracking.
  7. Humidity: Fluctuating humidity levels can lead to mold growth, corrosion, shrinking, and material cracking.
  8. Pollutants: Contaminants from both external and internal sources can damage objects, including dirt, soot, volatile components, and residual pesticides.
  9. Light Exposure: Cumulative and irreversible damage from visible, ultraviolet, and infrared radiation can cause fading, discoloration, and chemical changes in materials.
  10. Neglect: Failure to implement conservation measures, correct environmental conditions, or use archival materials can lead to collection deterioration and loss of records.

The most effective way to prepare for these agents of deterioration is to create a proactive disaster recovery plan. This plan should encompass a thorough inventory of all collection items, emergency contacts, internal and external resources, a removal strategy, and integrate remote monitoring for early threat detection.

Polygon’s Code Blue preferred client program provides a holistic solution for institutions to safeguard and restore essential collections during disasters. Offering risk assessments, preventive measures, and a meticulous recovery process including vacuum freeze drying, Polygon goes further by offering advanced remote monitoring. With ExactAire technology, businesses can monitor humidity, temperature, dust and particulars, VOCs, and even detect water leaks, ensuring comprehensive protection.

By partnering with Polygon and enrolling in the Code Blue program, businesses can limit interruptions in business operations and preserve critical assets in times of crisis.

Click here to learn more about code blue or to become a member!



Learn about our process from a subject matter expert:



Proactive and responsive strategies report

Download eBook

Related articles