Steam Engine at the Western Development Museum - Moose Jaw

Agent of Deterioration #10: Physical Forces

Posted in Collections by Kathleen Watkin on July 4th, 2014

This is the last post related to the Agents of Deterioration as defined by the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in Ottawa.  If you want to learn more about CCI, see their website or our April 29th blog post 

Physical Forces very visibly impact your collection. CCI has identified 5 force related impacts on museum artifacts.  They are:

Knowing these specific forces on your collection, museum staff and volunteers can learn about ways in which they can prevent these from affecting the artifacts. They can change how they place objects, transport objects, or handle them in order to prevent Physical Forces affecting your precious collections.

The form in which each of these forces come to effect your objects vary. CCI has classified some avenues in which these forces may come in.

Catastrophic Forces

(Low Incidence, High Intensity)

Working Forces

(High Incidence, Moderate-to-High Intensity)

Cumulative Forces

(High Incidence, Low Intensity)

Low-level Forces

(Variable Incidence, Low Intensity)




Building Vibration

War & Vandalism

Transit (in-house)


Construction Vibration

Shipment Disasters



Acoustic Sources

Extreme Handling Hazards

Gravitational Loads


Roof Collapse

Construction Vibration


Floor Collapse



Now that we can see how these stresses present themselves, we can implement strategies to reduce them.

CCI says that there are 3 ways to control damage from Physical Forces:

     1.  Building

     2.  Hardware

     3.  Procedures

Building control strategies are the most expensive to implement; hardware and procedure control strategies are cheaper.

Building control strategies may include ensuring that your building floor is of adequate strength to hold what you are going to place on it; ensuring that your building is prepared for any envirionmental situations, such as snow and its associated weight or earthquakes.

Hardware control strategies may include distancing objects from the public via barrier or cases; pack objects with the appropriate materials; and use proper mounts and materials of all objects.

Procedural control strategies may include identifying and protecting fragile objects from routine handling while in storage, display, or during transport by training staff or volunteers in the correct manner to complete such tasks.

Physical forces can be one of the easiest and hardest Agent of Deterioration to prevent.

This topic is HUGE and the distilled version misses much.  Check out the CCI website on Physical Forces for more in-depth information. 

Control strategies, such as display cases keep grubby hands off!

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