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GeneralQuake-proofing your collection

25th Nov 2015 05:19 GMTJohn M Stolz Expert

So for those of you who live where earthquakes are a fact of life, what do you do? Certainly strap the display cases, but what else? Do you tack the bases to the shelves? Using what? For those specimens on a custom base, do you also secure the specimens to the bases?


25th Nov 2015 07:31 GMTCourtenay Smale


Some years ago, friends of mine living in San Francisco used a product appropriately called 'QUAKE HOLD'. The description stated 'Help Secure Your Most Valuable Treasures from Earthquakes, Kids & Other Shakers In Your Home'. They had a fine display of decorative art pottery on open shelving, each item being affixed to the shelf by Quake Hold, which resembles White Tack in appearance. It further stated that 'QUAKE HOLD is a means to secure your small treasured valuables in place during seismic activity or common household activities such as dusting'.

It was made in Malaysia and marketed by a company called TREVCO, based in Monrovia, CA.


25th Nov 2015 09:57 GMTLefteris Rantos Manager

During the 1999 magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Athens, Greece (which resulted in more than 100 buildings and structures to collapse within the Athens metropolitan area and many victims), my mineral collection suffered surprisingly little damage. 3 or 4 very large "museum-sized" or large cabinet specimens from Lavrion did fall off their shelves and broke (although only one broke into pieces and was completely destroyed; another one fell with its display side up and just lay there mostly undamaged!), but the vast majority of the smaller (TN/thumbnail/small cabinet) specimens remained practically intact and most of them actually didn't move an inch from their original position in the display cases! I used no special protection at all, just the usual white tack. Specimens stored in drawers and paper/plastic boxes also remained mostly intact.


25th Nov 2015 12:01 GMTReiner Mielke Expert

'QUAKE HOLD" sounds to me like just a white stick tack ot mineral tack. What might be better is a clear weather sealant that is removeable. You would have to test it though to see how shake resistant it is but it is likely to be more resistant than stick tack and look a lot better.

25th Nov 2015 12:48 GMTChris Stefano Expert

There is a product called Quake Wax, which is a soft wax. It is easily removable and can really secure things. We use it to stand up heavy specimens that tack won't hold, so it has uses even here in Michigan where earthquakes are exceedingly rare.

25th Nov 2015 13:41 GMTBob Harman

If you live in an area where the only significant earthquake risk is someone bumping your display case.....a very localized quake so to speak....... I would think some of the mentioned stick substances should suffice. However, if you live in an area with significant earthquake risk, not only a stick substance, but earthquake insurance (especially if the collection is substantial) seems worthwhile. CHEERS.......BOB

25th Nov 2015 14:18 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Some years ago there were great minerals on display in the Natural History museum in San Francisco. I was horrified to realize they had been set in plaster!!! Then there was a big quake that disrupted a baseball game. None of the specimens were injured, but a large meter sized Jade carving fell over and smashed to bits. The removeable wax or tack sounds like a better idea.

A small magnetude 6 quake accelerated me about 30 cm in the quakes direction and back. A single specimen fell over- no damage. When the big one hits my building will pancake and all will be lost including me.

25th Nov 2015 14:54 GMTSteve Hardinger Expert

This issue was covered in a Mineralogical Record article some time ago.

25th Nov 2015 16:04 GMTTony Albini

John, I use mineral tack under the styrofoam insert in TN boxes and also to secure the specimen. I once dropped some TN pieces while moving Yoo many of them at once and none were broken. Also, there is a very sticky blue tack that works well.

Tony Albini

25th Nov 2015 17:45 GMTDouglas Merson Expert

When we had the 6.7 quake here in western Washington in February, 2001 it was my labels that moved not the specimens. I was a work at the time and expected to get home to a mess of broken specimens

26th Nov 2015 16:52 GMTJohn M Stolz Expert

Thanks all--and congratulations to Lefteris and Douglas for surviving their temblors although you guys must have died a thousand deaths until you got home!

Bob--would that I could buy EQ insurance. Here in California at least, it is only available by the CA EQ Authority--non-profit agency who offers only limited coverage. Regular insurance does not offer an EQ rider--it was hard enough finding an ins. co. that would specifically cover minerals.

Tony--I feel your pain, although I wasn't as lucky as you. Bunker Hill Pyromorphite is super brittle...

Rob--alas I must report that my dad did the same plaster base thing to some nice big quartz specimens he found out of some tunnel construction he was managing--I tell you, I was cringing and wincing as he formed that mess up and the 1st quartz tipped over...

Steve, Chris, Reiner, and Courtenay--thanks for the suggestions; I'll follow up.

Happy Thanksgiving folks


6th Jan 2016 05:05 GMTJenna Mast

I actually currently have most of my collection packed in boxes because of Earthquakes. I cannot properly secure my bookcases to the wall as the walls are too thick to locate the studs/wood, and I have hard wood floors, as opposed to the thickly padded carpeting at my old place.

Ideally though, I would secure the bookcases to the wall using one of the kits they sell here for it. I've seen two types. One that uses fabric straps, and one that uses steel cables. To secure the specimens to the shelves in the past, I've used both Earthquake putty/museum putty/mounting putty, and museum wax. I prefer the putty because it's a little less messy but I haven't done any tests to see which withstands shaking better. I also use the putty as mineral might very well be the same stuff though I'm not sure. I just bought some 3M mounting putty after running out of the Earthquake putty. The 3M stuff is a little softer and stickier on the surface while the Earthquake putty is smoother on the surface but needs more working to soften it sufficiently for use.

Earthquakes can be strange beasts though. I lived in an area that got a lot of shaking during the Northridge Earthquake and the only thing that fell was a lamp.

Another thought, if you were up for a project you could build a base isolation system for your display cases.

6th Jan 2016 05:16 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Tomasz Praszkier and companions put on a wonderful display of Morocco minerals in at the yearly Crystal Days event in Poland last summer - big professional glass cases on the ground floor of an ancient stone building. Outside, on the street, perhaps 50 or 100 meters away, was a stage with an incredibly loud rock band. They weren't bad, but their bass did measure something on the Richter scale in that part of town. Over in the town hall, despite its thick and ancient stone walls, the mineral specimens in the cases were vibrating on the glass shelves and slowly "walking" towards the front of the case. Like you, Jenna, Tomasz solved the problem with sticky tack under the specimens. What should we call this.... earthquakes of non-tectonic origin?

6th Jan 2016 07:08 GMTJenna Mast

Soundquakes :-)

Earthquakes tend jolt one direction as much as they jolt in the opposite direction. I think that's possibly why more objects more objects don't fall off of things, which brings us to another point. Put your "top shelf" specimens on deep shelves!

Alfredo Petrov Wrote:


> Tomasz Praszkier and companions put on a wonderful

> display of Morocco minerals in at the yearly

> Crystal Days event in Poland last summer - big

> professional glass cases on the ground floor of an

> ancient stone building. Outside, on the street,

> perhaps 50 or 100 meters away, was a stage with an

> incredibly loud rock band. They weren't bad, but

> their bass did measure something on the Richter

> scale in that part of town. Over in the town hall,

> despite its thick and ancient stone walls, the

> mineral specimens in the cases were vibrating on

> the glass shelves and slowly "walking" towards the

> front of the case. Like you, Jenna, Tomasz solved

> the problem with sticky tack under the specimens.

> What should we call this.... earthquakes of

> non-tectonic origin?

8th Jan 2016 18:37 GMTJohn M Stolz Expert


A couple of observations: On anchoring your bookcases, the wall anchors need not be super stout. It doesn't sound like you have a sheetrock wall, but if you did, a 70lb rated sheetrock screw should do the trick. You're just overcoming tipping, and that's not much. If it's lathe and plaster, just drill a hole and use a moly or expansion anchor. Of course, I suppose we should remember that Northridge was the driver for revising the UBC to include a vertical acceleration component in the calcs...

To all:

For me, the problem is the tack. That clearly makes the most sense, but my pieces (toenail to miniature to small cab) are all on Lucite bases that are custom dremmelled to display the piece (and oftentimes propped with a formed upright peg fused to the acrylic base. So that suggests I have wasted all that time and effort to avoid using the usual hot glue solution. And on top of it, I would also have to put an unsightly daub of tack between the base and the shelf!

It's going to be hard for me to give up my custom bases; It's become something of a ritual with every new purchase, to make the new base--about 15min for each. I really need to do something--my wife is telling me I'm crazy for procrastinating--and she's right.


10th Jan 2016 06:45 GMTJenna Mast


Thanks for the tips. The walls are plaster with a more coarse layer behind the surface coating. I'm not sure if it's lathe and plaster or some other type of construction. It's an old building not more than 300 feet from a fault line that is thought to generate large earthquakes. The owners wish to demolish it but I'll look into your suggestions at the new place.

10th Jan 2016 12:18 GMTSusan Robinson

The blue sticky tack is difficult to completely remove from a specimen, and you should use just the minimal amount on a specimen, since its color can be very distracting. I think you'd have to use a solvent to get all of it off of the mineral, especially if it's stuck to a gossan or other delicate-type matrix. The quake wax is the best I've seen (Stefano mentioned this), to hold minerals in place, but it, too, might be difficult to totally remove.

Does anyone have more information on how to remove these tacky compounds? Knowing how to completely remove them from the minerals without damaging specimens is just as vital as how to save the minerals in a quake.

10th Jan 2016 16:31 GMTTony Albini

Hi Susan,

When I have to replace tack that has become dry or unsightly, I gently remove it from the specimen by hand to get the majority of the material removed. I then have carefully used dental picks to get most of the remaining material off the specimen. Usually I can get 90-99% of the tack removed this way. Since I am replacing the old tack with new because I want a different color of tack or a stickier tack, this works well for me.

Try my mechanical method on a surplus specimen and see if it works for you.

Tony Albini

11th Jan 2016 03:03 GMTRob Woodside Manager

If the specimen can be firmly held, then with a maleable ball of tack, dab at the tack that's left on the piece. The tack would rather stick to itself than most rocks. A few dabs and the specimen is clean.

11th Jan 2016 04:26 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

I agree with Susan that the color of blue tack is distracting, and that it can be difficult to remove. Pale grey tack is better.

Dr Russ MacFall used to use sticks of bees wax that had been specially formulated for museums. It was wonderful stuff! I got some from him in the early '80s. Don't know whether that is still available or not.

11th Jan 2016 13:34 GMTLarry Maltby Expert

Interesting Alfredo,

Some time ago I had to remount a toilet and found that the sealing gasket at the floor uses bees wax. They come in different thicknesses. One possibility is to buy a thick gasket and salvage the bees wax.

11th Jan 2016 19:50 GMTJohn Oostenryk

Glass shelves can be bad. Wasn't it Mr. Perkins who lost a collection to EQ damage in CA? Horrible story!

I have utilized thick plex with router grooved support along back(for strength/no sag). Also utilized small nail inserts or thin wood strip into back under plex shelves. It is unobtrusive when color matched.

I do like that plex is more of the clear color, than typical green nonUV tint.

My current cases with covers, I made sure door comes to shelf edge, to avoid that creep and leap issue, (looking like lemming myth!)

I have a very low, thin plex strip at edge of uncovered cases, for same reason. I think of it as the low hurdle restraint! See my lil learning story at end. ugh.

John, you could look into the thin drawer liner web matting for 'grab' on shelf. Cut to size your bases. Also, probably better esthetics, far easier to apply, I have seen clear silicone dots, for corners, used for same anti-skid on glass art objects.


Alfredo- Yes- loud music and little kids running!

Lil note- as a kid, our home had open shelves ceiling to waist height, with a stone base that matched the fireplace, between dining room and living room. My mom had placed art glass vases on these. 2 or 3 times, one vibrated to edge over time, because of us kids running around. it would fall caroming off the stone base. Glass explosion! Mom yelled and cried, we cried cause she was sad-ugh! (Don't run in the house?? Oh:(

Anyway, someone told her to put a bit of foam rubber under edges and problem solved... Never forgot that- they still live there:)

I overlooked that when I moved out, and got a large powerful stereo... until some objects disappeared (to be found behind the furniture they fell behind.)

Luckily that was pre-rock collection display at my residence!

10th Jul 2019 18:29 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

If any mineral collectors were affected by the recent Ridegcrest/Trona, California quakes, we'd like to hear how your collection fared. Was there damage? If so what? What was damaged/destroyed and what survived? What precautions -- if any -- did you take that helped your collection minimize or avoid damage?

I live west of Palm Springs, California..about 120 miles south of the Ridgecrest area. We certainly felt the two quakes as mild rolling motions. No damage to my collection, despite the fact that I haven't taken any specific earthquake proofing steps (although I certainly should...).

Those of us in Earthquake County (a locality that needs to be added to Mindat? LOL) should read: Earthquakes and Mineral Collections by Tony Kampf (retired mineral curator at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History), Mineralogical Record, Vol. 25, No. 4 July - August 1994, pages 245-247.

10th Jul 2019 21:16 BSTBob Harman

R WEAVER, A regular poster on Jordi Fabre's forum, lives in Ridgecrest Ca, about 11 miles from the quake's center.

He had a short 1 paragraph post, just the other day, stating that his collection was undamaged. He briefly described his shelves and cabinets. CHEERS.....BOB

14th Jul 2019 21:03 BSTJohn M Stolz Expert

We're in the San Fernando Valley near the SM Mountains about 140 miles SW. 1st EQ was very mild, the 2nd the day after was long and rolling. Display case doors rattled, but nothing dislocated in the house. Very glad I strapped all cases, vitrines, etc.

Steve, thanks for pointing me to the MinRec article

14th Jul 2019 21:31 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

John you might pay heed to Willard Perkin's experience with the 1971 Sylmar quake...
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