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Subject: Hazardous materials

Hazardous materials

From: Alison Wain <awain>
Date: Tuesday, October 8, 1996
K. R. Berrett <kory [at] juno__com> writes

>I'd be interested to know what advice is out there
>regarding the disposition of live small arms ammunition and
>potentially dangerous 18th or 19th century pharmaceuticals like
>strychnine.  These items are sometimes collected in smaller
>historical museums as personal effects or as parts of larger
>accessions when the local pharmacy closes.  In a medium or larger
>institution there is the possibility of safe storage for this sort
>of thing, but smaller museums invariably want to know how to dispose
>of this material.  Any thoughts?

Well, funny you should mention it but yes the Museum of Victoria has
both small arms munitions and pharmaceutical materials. As I
mentioned in the AICCM article "gun cartridges can be disarmed by
opening the cartridge and removing the powder and primer.  These can
then be disposed of by burning them in a fume hood or an open
outdoor area. If none of the museum staff have the expertise to do
this a gunsmith or gun collection society should be able to help."
Obviously you only want to burn small amounts of powder  at a time,
and as you are essentially changing the object you need to document
the process thoroughly.

With regard to the pharmaceuticals, we had a Drugs and Poisons
Officer from the Dept. of Health and Community Services advise us on
which items were dangerous, and which ones we would have needed a
permit to store. The curator decided that against keeping the
material requiring a permit due to difficulties in meeting the costs
and regulations for storage of these items, so we contacted a
chemical disposal company to find out what they could dispose of for
us and how to pack it for transport. They were able to dispose of
mercury, strychnine, cyanide, opium, arsenic etc. by incineration.

Alison Wain and Liz Wild
Objects Conservators
Museum of Victoria

                  Conservation DistList Instance 10:36
                Distributed: Saturday, October 12, 1996
                       Message Id: cdl-10-36-008
Received on Tuesday, 8 October, 1996

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