Conservation - Causes of Damage

What can possibly go wrong?

Understanding the Object

Caring for objects means understanding the materials that they are made of, and the things can cause harm to these materials. For example:

  • careless handling can cause breakages
  • too much exposure to light makes colours fade
  • too much moisture in the air can encourage mould to grow
  • attack by insect pests results in holes and other physical damage

The Effects of Damage

Some of these effects, such as breakage, are immediate, and usually very obvious. Others, such as the fading of colours on a painting or an item of clothing, can take a long time and is not immediately obvious unless there is some record of the object's original appearance.

A Variety of Problems

There is a multitude of other possible kinds of damage, such as corrosion of metals, embrittlement of plastics, and the perishing of rubber. Can you think of others?

The Rate of Change

The rate at which these changes take place is usually very slow, over a matter of months or even years, but the rate of change is usually faster under conditions of high temperature, high humidity, and when light - particularly ultra-violet light - is present.

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