Protect Your Treasures
It is in the nature of all materials
to deteriorate. All deterioration is due to the natural forces
of physics and chemistry. The scientific law of Entropy states
that nature will tend towards a state of maximum disorder, or
in other words, minimum energy. Disordered systems require less
energy than ordered systems. Deteriorated materials are less
ordered than new materials. This natural order of things means
that all materials will deteriorate and they will deteriorate
through chemical or physical mechanisms.
Physical damages are caused when "work"
energy, from handling, moving, bending, flexing, and other manipulations,
is transferred to the structure of a material like wood or metal. This energy causes wear, tearing, fraying and
other breakage that results in damage to the physical structure
of the material. Chemical mechanisms for deterioration involve
chemical reactions that break down the structures of materials
and molecules. For example, fading results when light causes
chemical bonds in a colorant molecule to break down.
Other chemical reactions that
cause material deterioration include attack by water or moisture
and attack by acids. Newsprint
fibers are attacked by the acids in the newsprint and become
brittle and yellowed within a few days after the paper is made.
Chemically induced deterioration often results in physical changes
in the material. Physical changes in deterioration do not change
the chemical make up of a material undergoing alteration. They
only affect the properties of the material. Chemical changes
during deterioration alter the actual chemical make up of the
materials. Both kinds of changes are permanent and cannot be
It is not possible to stop deterioration
or to reverse changes that have already occurred in the materials
of objects. It is only possible to use preventive methods
to interfere with the process of deterioration to slow it down. We can also
use conservation methods to minimize the effects of what has
already occurred. This preventive interference is positive in
that it slows the deterioration process. Interference can also
be negative and can accelerate deterioration. Positive interference
in deterioration is preventive conservation or preventive care.
One can protect objects from this natural
course of deterioration by practicing preventive care. The major areas where preventive care is useful
include the following:
- Environmental Control
Controlling the temperature, relative
humidity, and light is the best way to prolong the life of objects.
- Water and Humidity
Keeping water and high moisture
content air away from objects will prolong their life.
- Acids and Chemicals
Preventing exposure to aggressive
acids and other chemicals will lengthen the survival of collections.
Particulate pollution from fire,
smoke, and soot is very damaging to valued heirlooms.
- Dust and Dirt
Preventing exposure to dust and
dirt will help you objects last longer.
Controlling pests to avoid infestation
will protect objects from pest damage.
Careful and proper handling will
prevent damage from moving and examining objects.
- Home Repairs
Avoiding home repairs and repairs
by non-professionals will prevent some of the most serious damage