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Subject: Primacord safety fuse

Primacord safety fuse

From: Paul Storch <paul.storch>
Date: Friday, August 13, 2004
Beth Heller <bheller [at] ischool__utexas__edu> writes

> .... The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum director has
>asked me for storage and exhibit recommendations for a 500 foot reel
>of Ensign-Bickford Co. Primacord safety fuses ...

Primacord is a registered trademark for pentaerythritol
tetranitrate. It is produced by the nitration of pentaerythritol. It
is indeed a shock-sensitive explosive that detonates at 210 degrees
C.  Your best information on long-term stability, storage and
handling of the material would be from a mining engineer.  I would
imagine that the museum director would have access to one.

I would also suggest that you ask several questions that would
require a curatorial decision.  Does the museum need to curate the
entire reel of the cord, or can it be sampled and the rest disposed
of properly via the local bomb squad or army ordinance unit?   The
reel is a high risk object due both to it's chemical composition and
potential for theft.  Does the original cardboard box have more
historic value than the actual cord, in term of an exhibit object?
What is the level of security in the shed to prevent theft and
vandalism?  What is the long-term research value of the object?
These questions should be asked about any high-risk collections,
such as firearms and other weapons, as well as historic
pharmaceuticals that might contain controlled substances.  They
should be in lockable cabinets within secured storage, and access
limited to one or two authorized staff members who sign in and out
when they access the collections.

I've written an in-house policy and procedures manual for curating
and conserving chemical, pharmaceutical, and other hazardous
collections.  I can email the PDF. file is you're interested.  I
should have a version for small museums written sometime in the next
few months that will be posted on <URL:> in the
conservation pages. The principle that I use is to sample the
chemicals and hazardous materials and dispose of the bulk of the
materials while maximizing the preservation of the containers and

Paul S. Storch
Senior Objects Conservator
Daniels Objects Conservation Laboratory (DOCL)
B-109.1, Minnesota History Center
345 Kellogg Blvd. West
St. Paul MN  55102-1906
Fax: 651-297-2967

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:12
                  Distributed: Friday, August 13, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-18-12-004
Received on Friday, 13 August, 2004

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