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Subject: Ten agents of deterioration

Ten agents of deterioration

From: Charlie Costain <charlie_costain>
Date: Friday, April 25, 2003
In further response to the discussion on the '10 agents of
deterioration', it is clear that there have been a number of lists
of agents which have been put forward over the years. However, I
would like to shed some additional light on the evolution of a list
which is in current usage, which I think is likely the one that
Susan Myall was referring to.

While I appreciate John Simmon's giving me credit for first
publishing the 9 agents of deterioration, these were in fact first
proposed by Stefan Michalski at an IIC-Canadian Group conference in
1987 as "Preventive Conservation: A Wall Chart". This chart was
subsequently refined by Michalski, printed and sold by CCI and used
as a teaching framework at CCI for a number of years.

It was first published by Stefan Michalski at the ICOM-CC Dresden
conference in 1990 ("An Overall Framework for Preventive
Conservation and Remedial Conservation", ICOM Committee for
Conservation, 9th Triennial Meeting, Desden, 26-31 August 1990, pp.
589-591), in which he refers to nine agents of deterioration.
Michalski further developed this approach in his publication "A
Systematic Approach to Conservation: Description and Integration
with Other Museum Activities" (IIC, Preventive Conservation,
Practice, Theory and Research, Preprints of the Contributions to the
Ottawa Congress, 12-16 September 1994, pp.8-11).

Robert Waller had also worked with this framework for a number of
years, during which time he refined and adapted it to his work at
the Canadian Museum of Nature. He proposed the addition of
'curatorial neglect' as the tenth agent, first published at the IIC
Congress in Ottawa in 1994 ("Conservation Risk Assessment, A
Strategy for Managing Resources for Preventive Conservation," IIC
Congress, 1994 pp.121-16).

At the time that I wrote the CCI Newsletter article in 1994, the
Preventive Conservation Framework Poster had just been re-published,
but the information had been in use and widely distributed for 6 or
7 years. Credit for the development and evolution of the concept
belongs to Stefan Michalski and Robert Waller.

Finally, it is also worthy of note that work in this field is still
progressing; Stefan Michalski and Rob Waller are currently working
together to further develop this approach using the internet and
expert systems.

Charlie Costain
Director, Conservation and Scientific Services
Canadian Conservation Institute


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