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Museum Monday: Something lurks in the Logan

October 28, 2016
By Krista Barry

Museum Monday: Something lurks in the LoganLogan Museum Collections Lab

Something sinister poses a threat to the Logan Museum. Rumor has it, a mad scientist has been creeping around, allowing pests into the collections. Pests like rats and bugs that can spell trouble for museum objects. Not only do these pests leave unsavory remnants behind, but they can also eat objects.

Luckily, the Logan’s integrated pest management system has so far thwarted the new intruders, but our sticky bug traps may be out-matched by the bats.Logan staff have so far been puzzled by the demented scientist’s work.

From what we can tell, the culprit has been experimenting with inherent vices. An inherent vice is a material’s natural propensity to deteriorate over time, typically due to intrinsic characteristics, incompatibility or instability of materials, poor quality, or processing methods. These agents of deterioration spell trouble for preservation. Often an inherent vice cannot be cured; its progress can only be slowed.

Museum Monday: Something lurks in the Logan


Museum staff work diligently to slow the process of deterioration with environmental controls and monitoring systems. Particularly, we strive to control light exposure, temperature, and relative humidity. Fluctuations and over-exposure to these elements will cause stress on objects, but can also fuel the progress of inherent vices. Rust, for example, is a well-known vice of iron and steel objects. It is aggravated by moisture or higher relative humidity, which is why the Logan stores its metal objects in a low humidity room—to delay the objects’ natural corrosion.   

The dastardly doctor downstairs seems to not only be experimenting with vices attributed to metal objects, like rust and bronze disease, but also collecting conditions that affect other types of objects as well. Vials have been uncovered containing samples of glass disease, spalling, iridescence, efflorescence, foxing, and silvering.

Please help us protect the collections by passing this information along. We hope to soon unravel the mysterious workings of this mad scientist, but the evidence may disappear as inexplicably as it appeared….

Happy Halloween from the Logan!

For more information pertaining to inherent vices, please visit the National Park Service’s Museum Handbook, Part I: Museum Collections. The appendices will be of particular interest to those curious about specific conditions.