Mould, mould everywhere !!!

Lately mould had been very much on my mind. Everywhere I go; there it is on leather objects, paper documents, photographic material, textiles, wooden furniture…  I am haunted. So I am compelled to use my blog turn to encourage you all to be vigilant and regularly check your collections especially after periods of heavy rain and high humidity. Ideally this should be part of a wider Integrated Pest Management program.  A small isolated outbreak is much easier to deal with than a large one.

Box brownie camera with active mould affecting leather surface.

Box brownie camera with active mould affecting leather surface.

Mould (the common term for fungal growth) can cause major, irreparable damage to a wide range of organic materials found in heritage collections. Staining and structural weakness is the most common form of damage.

When fungal spores are in a conducive environment, they will germinate and spread. What constitutes a suitable environment varies for each species. Many of the species affecting cultural heritage materials require moisture (e.g. water damage and/or high humidity above 65%), stagnant air pockets and surface dirt. It is very important to minimise the risk by maintaining relative humidity around 50-55%, ensuring good air movement and keeping collections and storage and display areas scrupulously clean. This will also reduce the risk of insect activity.

If you find fungal activity in your collection, take care. Some species can cause major health problems particularly for people who suffer from respiratory conditions and allergies.  Avoid the area if you think you’re at risk.

Wool uniform displaying active mould

Wool uniform displaying active mould

For small outbreaks, wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). At a minimum, you will need a P2 respirator mask (the kind with the filter valve on the front of the mask), nitrile gloves and enclosed safety googles. Listed below are a number of websites providing advice on how to deal with outbreaks. If you are unsure what to do, seek advice from a conservator or your MDO.

If the outbreak is large, I would strongly recommend quarantining the room and collections and seek assistance from a mycologist.

A few useful links:

National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/Museum/publications/conserveogram/03-04.pdf

State Library of Queensland: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/128982/Caring-for-your-collections-Dealing-with-mould.pdf

Canadian Conservation Institute: http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/resources-ressources/carepreventivecons-soinsconspreventive/mould-moisissures-eng.aspx

Conservation Centre for Art and Historic Artifacts: http://www.museumtextiles.com/uploads/7/8/9/0/7890082/managing_a_mold_invasion.pdf

Lydia Egunnike, Museum Development Officer, Southern Inland Queensland.

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Posted on 13 May 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Jana Kahabka

    None here in sunny Croydon! Jana

  2. helen brasier-cooper

    Hi Ewen, Living in the tropical part of QLD we cannot keep leather very well often covered in moulds al you can do is wipe with plain water and must dry thoroughly and or use a hair dryer. I find using any chemicals just makes the mould grow onto the residue the chemical leaves. With my books I put them in Tupperware type containers that seal well letting no air getting in the have books dating back to 1790 which is in my family that when they came to Australia Victoria as free settlers. Hence I live in the tropics and the books are intact using this method. I also put valuable clothing, sheets ect in large containers that full seal. Also keep in mind we were living in the Daintree rainforest for over twenty years I was able to keep my historical collection in tact. All photograph material keep the same way. I hope I was of some assistance to you .Please feel free to ring me on mb 0403558835 Kinds Regards Helen Cooper Date: Tue, 12 May 2015 21:35:29 +0000 To: brasiercooper@hotmail.com

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