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Agents of Deterioration That Threaten Collection Specimens

School buses parked too close to a gas regulator.

Outside this former museum building, the risk of physical damage to the natural gas regulator, and therefore, the risk of fire, is evident.

Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa CAN16785.

Water marks on this Herbarium sheet represent damage caused by flooding. This specimen of wild bergamot was collected by John Macoun on July 18, 1878.

Covellite NMC30040.

The fuzzy growth of other copper-sulfide phases, digenite and/or djurleite, has altered this covellite specimen. The contamination is thought to result from interaction with hydrogen sulfide emitted from other mineral specimens.

Northern leopard frogs, Lithobates pipiens NMC30743.

Light and Ultraviolet Light
Placed in a south window for eight months, two of the northern leopard frogs in this experiment have faded about as much as they would after several decades of exposure under controlled lighting conditions in an exhibition. The colour of the centre frog is not as faded as that of the frog on the right because it was protected by an ultraviolet light filter. The frog on the left was completely covered by aluminum foil. A belt of aluminum foil was also wrapped around the middle of each; when removed, their original colour is obvious.

Damaged shipping package.

The shipping package is torn open, and the mineral sample is missing.

Gentian, Gentiana. Herbarium sheet with damaged gentian flowers.

Hungry beetles have damaged the gentian flowers on this Herbarium sheet.

Quartz CMN51364.

Incorrect Temperature
This photograph shows bubbles captured in a quartz specimen. The bubbles contain some of the solution in which this quartz mineral grew. The liquid and gas inclusions were sealed at the pressure under which the mineral formed, typically hundreds or thousands of times greater than that on the Earth's surface. A rise in temperature raised the internal pressure of the inclusions, resulting in the explosion of one of them.

Fish larvae stored in jar with low fluid level.

Incorrect Relative Humidity

Low levels of preservative fluid are a great risk to collections. The museum has 400,000 containers of fluid preservative with a combined container-lid joint length of 100 km. Even slight imperfections in closures become serious problems for fluid-preserved collections. Coincidentally, the label of this jar notes that these fish larvae were found in "shallow water".

Jumble of labels and specimens.

"Pick a label, any label". Losing the connection between specimens and data is a serious risk to any collection. These are whale bones.

Sea lampreys, Petromyzon marinus NMC84-0036.

Physical Forces
This one-gallon jar is too small for these six sea lamprey specimens. Crowding may cause permanent physical damage to the specimens.

A mounted beaver specimen showing damage on its skin.

Incorrect Relative Humidity
The face and hands of this beaver cracked and split while on display in the museum because of poor humidity control. Taxidermy specimens are very sensitive to changes in relative humidity. Low humidity—such as what we typically experience during our Canadian winters—can cause the taxidermy skin to dehydrate, shrink and split. Prior to the renovation of the museum in 2010, it was difficult to control the humidity. The beaver was repaired and installed in the Mammal Gallery.