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What causes physical damage?

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guy dropping pottery

We've all accidentally dropped or crushed a favorite object. Physical damage can also occur over time; have you ever stored a soft object beneath a heavier one or created a permanent crease in cloth by folding it for too long?

Museum conservators consider all causes of physical damage when planning safe storage and display, including catastrophes like earthquakes or building collapse.

How do you keep objects safe from physical damage?

ceramics shelf

Don't crowd objects in drawers or cabinets!

Do give each object adequate space and padding. Give enough space so objects do not touch each other!

Do make storage and display mounts that fit each object!

Do pick up fragile objects with both hands! ... and support them at the base.

What can you do at home?

ceramics shelf
  • Use common sense when handling a fragile object. Know where you will set it down, arrange for help as needed, and make sure your hands are dry and lotion-free!
  • Display ceramics on sturdy shelves away from main traffic. An enclosed cabinet is even better!
  • Use both hands to pick up valuable vases or bowls. Support them from their strongest part, the base.
  • Avoid stacking fragile china or flexible objects like baskets. If you must stack, separate objects with layers of padding.
  • Keep special clothes in your closet on padded or covered hangers. Stuff folds with acid free tissue when folding valuable textiles for long-term storage.
Vulnerable Objects:
  • Ceramics
  • Glass
  • Crystal
  • China
  • Delicate fabrics
  • Baskets
  • Sculpture