Agents of Deterioration

Robert Waller of the Canadian Museum of Nature and Stefan Michalski of the Canadian Conservation Institute have been the primary proponents of applying risk management strategies to museum collections. This approach has found wide acceptance in the preservation community as a tool for helping institutions assess risks to collections and find an appropriate balance between the requirements for use (i.e. research, display and education) and preservation. 

Examining whether a risk is likely or unlikely to occur and whether it would result in minor or major loss aids in setting preservation priorities.  Risk is broken down according to ten agents of deterioration  that pose threats to collections.  

Nine of these risks are physical (physical forces, fire, water, criminals, pests, pollutants, light, incorrect temperature, and incorrect humidity) and the tenth is custodial neglect. This tenth agent is most dependent on issues relating to general collections management policies. Risk for all of these agents of deterioration can be controlled at many levels—from the site location, down through the building, room, cabinet, or object.  It can also be controlled by implementation of proper policy and procedures.