While film collections hold fictional monsters of every shape, size, and color, what's sometimes lurking on the outside of these reels can be every preservationist's worst nightmare.

In the U.K., a "movie-eating fungi" has caused film archivists to spring into action to prevent historical media collections from turning into dust and memories. From the BBC:

Cinematographic film has a layer of gelatin on its surface. This emulsion layer is where the image is formed but also provides ideal food for fungi like Aspergillus and Penicillium. If the fungus forms a layer of mold on a film, it produces enzymes which allow it to use the film as food and to grow. So the damage it can cause is irreversible as the mould "eats" the image stored on the film's surface.

Most of this media problem is the result of poor storage conditions, with humidity and dampness being the main ingredients for a mold buffet.

"It's a drastic situation. There's nothing we can do about mould unfortunately. It has devestating effects on the image," film conservationist Mark Bodner told the BBC.

To prevent the mold, researchers are currently looking at developing "sensor strips" that can detect fungus infections before considerable damage is done.

The British Film Institute, however, isn't waiting for technology to catch up. They're spending millions to build a a sub-zero, low-humidity vault to keep their collections pristine and mold-free.

"In those conditions some spores may survive in a dormant state but if they're dormant they're not eating the film," said operations manager Ron Martin.

So while we may never be able to defeat this particular monster, at least we can keep it "chilled" until some other method is discovered. 

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Attack of the movie-eating fungi
UK film conservationists battling mold in effort protect aging media collections.