Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials can be dangerous for staff, visitors, and volunteers at your historic site if they are not handled, stored, and disposed of properly. This page provides basic information on identifying and caring for hazardous materials in your collections. If you have any concerns or questions regarding potentially dangerous objects, it is always best to consult a professional.


Best Practices

Having trouble determining whether an object in your collection may be hazardous? Check out this link from the Museums and Galleries of New South Wales for a comprehensive (but not exhaustive!) list of hazardous materials. The Collections Trust also has a handy PDF identifying broad categories of hazardous materials and what to do when you find them in your collections. 

Della Keyser at Sustaining Places wrote this guide to handling medicines in your collections. It offers advice on risk management, storage and display, what medicine is safe to keep, and how to best dispose of unsafe chemicals. This slide show and its corresponding notes, provided by the Western Museums Association, includes good advice compiled by professionals who regularly work with hazardous objects. 

The National Park Service Conserve-O-Grams include this one on Hazardous Materials in Your Collection. 

The Smithsonian Institution Green Team published this newsletter on plastics in your collection. It discusses issues of off-gassing, the deterioration of plastics, and safe handling practices.

The Canadian Conservation Institute offers these tips on identifying and managing mercury and lead in museum collections (if your organization owns a historic house, pay particular attention to the section on lead paint!).

This article will help you understand and deal with arsenic in taxidermy collection objects. 

Connecting to Collections provides this useful Q&A as part of their webinar on hazardous collections materials.

The American Institute for Conservation and Artistic Works posted this helpful video about identifying and dealing with hazardous materials in your collection, and where you can go if you need help dealing with them.