Protecting Your Collections from Natural Disasters: Earthquakes

The scary truth is that all of us have had to deal with or WILL deal with some sort of natural disaster hitting our collections. From earthquakes to fires to floods, anything can happen at any moment, and the best thing you can do for your museum is to be prepared. There are 3 steps I always suggest to our clients: 1) ANTICIPATE scenarios for each type of disaster. This includes setting aside money in your budget each year for possible repairs/conservation or consultants. 2) PREPARE. Bring in a company to assess your building and collection spaces; create a disaster plan for each space and type of collection; and train your employees/volunteers. 3) IMPLEMENT. Secure your objects BEFORE disaster strikes!


Let's focus briefly on securing your objects against earthquakes and vibrations or falls from construction/remodeling. Prevention is key, but prevention looks different for each type of collection, collection space -- and budget. Let's think about drawers for a moment. Being able to keep objects protected inside drawers is wonderful and doesn't have to be expensive. Putting dividers in between objects within drawers is a good start. This is easy to do with scrap blue board or other archival materials such as rolled tissue or soft foam.


If the objects are on shelves, and those shelves have removable bars in front preventing things from sliding off, pad the bars with soft foam or cotton batting wrapped in linen. For the objects themselves (especially if there isn't a bar), if you have the budget to put each object (or at least the most fragile) inside of a custom archival "earthquake box" (see picture of one of ours) with foam insert, do that. These boxes are relatively easy to construct, and we would be more than happy to teach a workshop to your staff showing them the different types of boxes they can make. If a box is not an option for you, consider foam rings covered in Tyvek for the object to rest upon if it is a pottery, ceramic or glass vessel. This will prevent it from moving and knocking into the objects next to it. Also consider belly bands that go around the "belly" of the vessel. To cut down on vibration damage, soft sealed Tyvek or plastic bags filled with silicone beads or sand is a good option for inside the vessel. 


There are as many ways to protect objects as there are different types of objects to protect. So if you have a question on one of yours, please don't hesitate to call us today for a free consultation! (800) 715-8804

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