Are you sure that your art collection is safe from these ten hazards?

Estimated read time 3 min read

Your art collection may be in danger. Discover how to protect your art collection against these ten agents that can cause deterioration.

As a conservator, I am often asked what the most important factors are when storing and maintaining a collection. The most common question I am asked is, “What’s the coolest project you have ever worked on?” but the question about storage is not far behind.

The following are the most common risks associated with collecting, whether you have a collection in your home, an institution, or a storage facility.

Physical Forces

Physical forces can cause objects to be damaged directly through breakage, deformation, and wear. Physical forces can damage things indirectly. Imagine a drawer that sticks when opened or shut. Glass or ceramics can move and crash.

The damage caused by physical force can range from tiny hairline cracks to destruction.

Theft and vandals

Theft can be done by stealing large, apparent objects or smaller items that might not be noticed for a while.

How can I protect myself from theft? You can buy sensors that will alarm if there is any movement. (There are affordable options). You can also detect loss by creating a complete list with photos and performing audits through random object searches. Consider a cloud-based art inventory system such as Artwork Archives if you do not have one.


Everyone should have an evacuation plan in case of fire and a smoke detection system that works. Avoid clutter and electrical hazards. This article also discusses how to protect your artwork from fire risks.


Water can damage your artwork much more than a fire. Water can be found in many places. Water can come from many sources.

Consider where you store your collections to avoid water damage. Keep your readers away from basements, windows, water coolers, and pipes. All objects should be raised at least 10cm off the ground. Tent plastic sheeting over things to prevent leaks.


Pests such as vermin and insects can damage and destroy your collection. This hazard is hazardous to organic materials, such as textiles, feathers, paper, and skins. Keep your storage areas clean, dry, and uncluttered. Inspect them regularly.


Pollutants may come from inside or outside confined areas, such as a storage facility. The most severe damage is caused to sensitive collection items when a contaminant and the collection item are nearby. Wool emits sulfur gases and tarnishes the silver or wood pulp paper—discoloring paper art. Choose materials that will come in close contact or near your collection.

Light exposure

If objects are to enjoy, they will need light exposure. Art will have to be exposed in some way to light, but there are ways to minimize the risk.

Avoid placing artwork in direct sunlight. All indoor lighting should be LED, UV-filtered, or incandescent. Light damage is cumulative and can often not be reversed.

Adverse Temperature

Too warm temperatures cause long-term damage. It is easy to underestimate the slow deterioration caused by adverse temperatures. Maintaining a moderate, stable temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit is best.

Adverse relative humid

Relative humidity that is too high can cause damage to materials, especially organic materials. These materials absorb and release moisture causing objects to expand and contract. Objects can warp, crack or tear when high or low relative humidity exists.

It can be costly to control humidity in a building. Still, you can create a stable environment for most collections if you avoid temperature gradients, extremes of temperature, and sources of excessive moisture. You can provide some evaporative humidity during dry seasons – typically during winter heating.

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