Author Archives: Lydia Egunnike

Pesky Pests 2: IPM – Monitoring your buildings and collections

In part 2 of our Pesky Pest blog, we will look at monitoring buildings and collections to ensure early detection of pest and fungal activity. It is recommended that a formal building and collection inspection program is developed and implemented to ensure consistency by all who carry out the inspections. Also ask for cleaning staff to report any evidence of pest or fungal activity before they remove the evidence to prevent activity going undetected.

Ensure the buildings housing collections are regularly inspected and any issues identified be addressed as soon as possible. If you have a facilities manager work in collaboration with them if possible. The inspection should cover external as well as internal areas. In addition to standard building maintenance issues, look out for existing or potential pest entry points and issues that will create a more inviting environment for our biological foes. This may include identifying areas that are cluttered with poor air movement, leaking pipes and vegetation growing up against buildings.  Are windows and doors regularly left opened? It is helpful to use a standard museum facility report to carry out your building inspection. If you would like a copy of a template, please contact your MDO.


Check doors and windows. Poorly sealed doors are a common entry point for insects and small animals including mice. (Image: Lydia Egunnike)

In addition to inspecting items already in your collection, check all incoming objects and paper materials for evidence of prior or current pest and mould activity. Ideally this should be done in a dedicated quarantine area that is close to the entrance of the building and separate from the collection and display areas.

In addition to regular building inspections, it is essential to develop and implement a formal pest and fungal monitoring program for all collection storage and display areas. All staff and volunteers (including cleaning staff) who work near or with collections should receive regular training so they are familiar with all components of the monitoring program and can keep an eye out for early signs whilst going about their daily activities.

Ideally the collections should be checked once a week in the summer months and fortnightly in the cooler months. The regularity of the inspections will be guided by availability of staff or volunteers so make sure the schedule is practical.

The monitoring program should include regular visual inspections as well as the use of insect blunder traps. A bright torch should be used during inspections to see into dark spaces. A 10x magnifier with a built-in light is also invaluable to help identify little critters.

The monitoring program should include the following components:


  • Floors and walls
  • Window sills and the inside of ceiling light fixtures as many pests will fly or crawl to light.
  • Display cases and shelving.
  • Baseboards, under furniture, behind mouldings, in cracks in floors, behind water heaters and in air ducts.
  • On the outside and inside of storage enclosures as well as behind and under them.

Look for:

  • Live adults and larvae and the presence of shed larval skins or faeces.
  • Feeding debris or frass around or below specimens.
  • Exit or feeding holes
  • Hair falling from fur or pelts, mats of fibres, silken feeding tubes or cases, or moth or beetle pupae.
  • Insect eggs.
  • Fungal activity

Look out for evidence of damage. This box of documents clearly shows mouse activity. (Image: Lydia Egunnike)






And here is a likely supect.(Image: Lydia Egunnike)


  • Place blunder traps throughout collection storage and display areas. Details on effective blunder trap monitoring will be covered in the next Pesky Pests blog.


  • Create an IPM Log and record pest and fungal activity. This will include number and type of pests and location of outbreaks. An IPM Log template is available on request from your MDO. Over time you may notice seasonal patterns and identify locations that are more conducive to biological activity. You can use this information to implement proactive measures such as extra monitoring, improving storage conditions or moving collections to a safer location.
  • It is important to accurately identify insect species. This will also be covered in the next installment of the Pesky Pests blog.

Take action if live pest or mould activity is discovered:

  • We will explore safe freezing and low oxygen methods in Pesky Pests 4. If you need assistance in the meantime, please consult your MDO or a conservator to determine which method is best suited to your situation.
  • Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM):

Next time in Pesky Pests: We will delve further into the exciting world of blunder traps and insect identification.

Pesky Pests 1: What is IPM ?

Protecting collections from pest and fungal damage is one of the greatest challenges faced by cultural heritage custodians. The most effective approach to controlling pest and fungal activity in collections (including any personal collections) is a well-considered, practical Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. So if you thought IPM was just used in the agricultural sector, think again. The aim of my new Pesky Pests series is to help you plan and effectively implement an IPM program for your collection and help you identify and eliminate your pesky biological foes.

A successful IPM program is all about proactive actions including good housekeeping practices, regular monitoring, effective building maintenance and the creation of a hostile environment for enemies. Regular applications of toxic pesticides and fungicides are not recommended and should not be necessary.


Detail of a register showing extensive termite damage (Image: Lydia Egunnike)

So what does a successful IPM program look like:

An organisation-wide acceptance of the principles of IPM and a willingness of all to learn and implement routine actions needed to protect the collections. These actions include:

  • Training of all staff and volunteers (including cleaning staff).
    • Contact your local MDO if you would like help with this.
    • Run regular refresher IPM sessions on an annual basis.
  • Prevention of entry of pests, such as insects, birds, and rodents, into buildings
    • Moderate the interior climate and avoid high relative humidity and temperatures.
    • Develop good exterior building maintenance and appropriate landscaping.
    • Inspect all incoming objects and paper materials for evidence of prior or current pest and mould activity, and inspect stored collections periodically for insect and mould activity. This includes materials such as stationary supplies.
  • Avoidance of practices and habits that attract pests and fungal activity:
    • Moderate the interior climate and avoid high relative humidity and temperatures.
    • Develop and maintain good interior housekeeping practices.
    • Maintain appropriate food restrictions and food/rubbish removal practices.
  • Implement measures to detect pests and fungal activity:
    • Set up and maintain a pest and fungal monitoring program for all collection storage and display areas. This should include regular visual inspections as well as the use of insect blunder traps.

Next time in Pesky Pests: We will look at how to check your buildings and collections for potential and existing risk factors and discuss mitigation strategies.



Dealing with flood and mould damaged collections

Our thoughts and best wishes are with the people of Townsville and Western Queensland who are currently experiencing unprecedented rain and flooding.

The Museum Development Officer program is currently in the process of contacting heritage organisations in the flood affected areas to see how they have fared and if they require assistance.  If your organisation needs help please contact Dr. Jo Wills on 0478 307 447 or

We have also compiled a list of resources (see below) to help organisations deal with water and mould affected collections.

These resources will also be useful to anyone who is dealing with their own personal collections, so please share the information across your community.

If your collection has been damaged, please don’t risk your own safety for collection items. Stay safe and ensure everyone is wearing suitable safety equipment (see list of PPE below). Only enter flood-affected buildings when you have been given the all clear from the authorities.

Once you have entered the affected area, it is important to allow time to take stock and get over the initial shock and panic. Many people’s gut reaction is to throw everything in the skip. While sadly many objects may be beyond repair, it is very rare for everything to be unsalvageable. The sooner you are able to access objects, the better the chance of successful salvage.

Objects such as ceramics and glass may be covered in mud but otherwise undamaged. Many water and mould damaged paper and photographic material can be frozen indefinitely (see list below for the link to State Library’s instructions on safe freezing). Freezing allows you valuable time to recover from the immediate flood recovery phase. You can then treat frozen material when everything has calmed down and you have more resources, energy, and people available. Please see the links below from the AICCM and State Library for specific salvage guidelines.

And last but not least, ensure everyone involved in the many hours of recovery that lie ahead are well fed and take regular rest breaks. The volunteers who make the cakes and sandwiches are as vital to the recovery as those working directly with the objects.

Personal Protective Equipment:

  • protective footwear (ideally safety boots or safety gumboots);
  • disposable P2 respirator masks, the kind with the valve on the front is best and replace regularly as it gets dirty (N.B. For heavily mould affected collections, a full face mask with P2 or P3 filters would provide better protection)
  • sturdy waterproof gloves for retrieving objects from the water and mud;
  • nitrile gloves during salvage treatment work;
  • safety glasses to protect your eyes from toxic particulate matter including mould (the type with wrap around sides provides the best protection);
  • Tyvek overalls are recommended if mould is present or you are working in very muddy, contaminated conditions;
  • Most hardware stores will stock the PPE listed above.
  • N.B. For very serious mould outbreaks, it is recommended you seek advice from a mycologist prior to accessing the collections. People with respiratory conditions should not be involved in any mould clean up.

Online resources:

If you have trouble accessing any of the links above, please let us know and we will get the information to you in another format.

Are you prepared ?

As summer rapidly approaches, the risk of damaging storms and bush fires greatly increase. So now is the time to ensure your organisation is disaster ready.

Check your buildings for any potential problems externally such as blocked gutters, damaged drains and roofing. Also check for possible risks internally such sources of moisture including damaged air conditioning and water pipes, areas of poor air circulation, crowded, poorly packed shelves etc. A large mould outbreak or insect infestation are also disasters !

Do you have a disaster preparedness plan?

If you don’t, now is the time to develop one. If you are unsure how to proceed, you can receive assistance from your local Museum Development Officer or contact the Australian Institute of Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM)

The following websites may also be helpful:

If you already have a disaster preparedness plan make sure it is current.

It is important to review your plan on an annual basis and update it as needed. Listed below are some areas that require regular review:

  • Significant items:
    • Check the list of high priority collection items. These are the objects that will be retrieved first in a disaster situation. These normally include unique and/or historically significant items.
    • Have there been any new acquisitions or donations that need to be added? Have you deaccessioned any items currently on the list ?
    • Are collection items still in the same locations or have they been moved? Update location details and floor plans. It is very important to be able to quickly locate significant collections for quick retrieval. Many organisations mark the shelving where high priority objects are located to assist in the location process.
  • The disaster team:
    • Check phone numbers for the disaster team are current.
    • Are people still willing and able to participate? If not, it is time to recruit new volunteers.
    • Who will lead the team?
    • Ensure all team members are familiar with the Disaster Plan and the salvage procedures for the collections.
  • Extra assistance:
    • If you require external assistance and have made arrangements in the past (e.g. priority access to the local cold storage facility to freeze water damaged collections), check that these arrangements are still possible. A written agreement may be helpful.
    • Organise new arrangements if needed.
  • Water damaged collections awaiting freezing. Ipswich flood, 2011.

    Water damaged collections carefully packed and waiting to be delivered to a cold storage facility to be frozen. Ipswich flood, 2011.

  • Disaster kits:
    • Carry out an inventory on your disaster kits and restock if necessary. Ensure the kits are stocked with materials and equipment appropriate to your greatest disaster risks (e.g. flooding or water leaks).
  • Disaster training
    • Organise training on use of the disaster plan and salvage procedures for members of the disaster team. Ideally this should be done annually.
    • If you require assistance with training, please contact your local Museum Development Officer or AICCM.
Air drying flood damaged photographs. Gayndah Museum, 2013.

Air drying flood damaged photographs. Gayndah Museum, 2013.

So as the old saying goes “forewarned is forearmed”. Fingers crossed this summer will be disaster free and your disaster plans remain untested!

The conservation of a fire damaged print


Fire damaged print of ‘Menin Gate before midnight’ before conservation treatment.

This blog will outline the conservation treatment I carried out on a print that was damaged in the fire last June at the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton. The print was on loan to the Winton and District Historical Society for their ANZAC exhibition “More than a name” when the fire struck. The print suffered water damage, weakening of the paper support and isolated areas of charring.

The print is a duplicate of the iconic oil painting “Menin Gate at Midnight” painted in 1927 by Australian artist William Longstaff. The painting depicts the shadowy ghosts of fallen soldiers marching past the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium. The image gained iconic status in Australia as the nation mourned the thousands lost in World War One.

The treatment process took approximately 4 days to complete and involved the following steps:

Step 1: Surface cleaned front of the print

Detail od=f charred ares

Charred areas of print surface before treatment.

  • The surface of the print was cleaned using a soft brush and air compression avoiding the charred areas.

Step 2: Consolidating the charred areas – part 1:

  • The weak charred areas on the front of the print (see right) were consolidated with a thin Japanese Tissue (Bib Tengujo) and wheat starch paste to prevent any loss of the damaged paper. The tissue was then carefully toned using pastel pencils to reduce the visible impact of the charred areas.

Step 3: Removal of the window mats:

Water damaged window mat and strawboard backing board.

Detail of the mat board and swollen strawboard before removal from the print. Water damaged window mat and strawboard backing board.

  • The window mat was mechanically removed.
  • Under the  mat board was a thick layer of adhesive tape residue which had to be removed from the surface of the print (see image below right). As the paper support was very porous, it was necessary to use methyl cellulose poultices to soften the adhesive as direct applications of water would have caused staining of the paper.

Step 4: Backing board removal:

  • Once the window mat was removed the acidic and charred backing boards, which the print had been directly adhered to, were removed.

    Lydia Egunnike removing adhesive residue from the front of the print.

    Lydia Egunnike removing adhesive residue from the front of the print.

  • The first layer of mat board was very thick strawboard which had swollen significantly on exposure to water (see image above right). Most mat boards are a composite of a number of layers of paper glued together which can be carefully removed layer by layer. Straw board is made by compressing straw pulp in one thick layer. If the board gets wet, the pulp forms dense clumps of fibres which make removal very difficult and time consuming. The removal of the board had to be carried out without water and took more than two days.
  • Under the strawboard was another thinner mat board layer that was also removed. The bulk of the mat board layers were removed dry. Fortunately the second backing board was layered in structure making removal much easier than the strawboard layer.

Step 5: Consolidation of charred areas – part 2:

  • The charred areas of the print were consolidated on the back of the print using Lens Tissue and wheat starch paste.
  •  Areas where the paper was weak but not charred were also consolidated.

Step 6: Reduction of water staining:

  • The water solubility of the printing inks was tested and found to be stable so the print was blotter washed in deionised water to reduce the heavy staining. Blotter washing uses capillary action to gently remove any soluble staining and discolouration without the need to apply water directly to the paper surface. The treatment was successful and reduced the staining making it much less visibly intrusive to the image.
Water stained print damaged in Winton fire.

Detail of print before treatment.

Detail of print after treatment showing reduction in staining and repair of charred area.

Detail of print after treatment showing reduction in staining and repair of charred area.

Step 7: Cleaning the brass plaque:

  • The brass plaque was cleaned by firstly brushing off any loose dirt and then very gently cleaned with a jewellers’cleaning cloth. This did not change the appearance of the plaque but further treatment was not carried out to prevent damaging the surface.

Step 6: Rematting and reframing:

  • A new window mat package was created matching the original mat configuration including the brass plaque. Canson 100% cotton cellulose mat board was used for the mat and backing board.
  • The print was then placed in its original cleaned frame. New glazing and an archival quality backing board were used to seal the frame package.
Helen and Bruce Collins of Winton and District Historical Society receiving the conserved print on behalf of the lender.

Helen and Bruce Collins of Winton and District Historical Society receiving the conserved print on behalf of the lender.

Fire at Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum


             Fire damage at Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum. (Images courtesy of  Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum)

Early on Wednesday 1st December, a fire broke out at the Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum.  The fire started in the rear building adjacent to the Workshop. The fire has caused major damage to a number of historic vehicles, stationary engines and machinery. The Museum’s tools were also destroyed in the blaze.

Thankfully the fire was contained to the Workshop area and the rest of the village was left unscathed and the Museum will be open as normal.

Since the fire, the Museum has been overwhelmed by offers of help and donations of tools. They are confident that the future is bright and the fire has made them more determined than ever to keep improving the Museum for their visitors.

For more information and to see images of the damage, please go to the Museum’s website:

If you are interested in donating to the Museum’s recovery fund, please contact the Museum’s Secretary:

Phone: 07 4128 4804 (Opening hours)


Post: 13 Zephyr St, Scarness, QLD

You can also show your support by visiting the Museum!

2015 Cultural Heritage Network- Toowoomba Region Seminar – Preserving our Heritage: Metals, Textiles, Photographs

On the 24 and 25 October, the Cultural Heritage Network – Toowoomba Region (CHN-TR) held their annual seminar at the Pittsworth Function Centre. The seminar was supported by a successful application by the CHN-TR to the Regional Arts Development Fund.  The Regional Arts Development Fund is a Queensland Government initiative through an Arts Queensland and Toowoomba Regional Council partnership to support local arts and culture.

Over 25 people attended the seminar with participants coming from not only the Toowoomba region but as far afield as Brisbane, Canungra and even the UK. The seminar began with a thought provoking opening address by Councillor Ros Scotney (Toowoomba Regional Council). Then three workshops on the care of metals, textile and photographic collections were run simultaneously. Topics covered over the two days included object identification, safe cleaning and handling methods, and suitable display and storage techniques and materials.

Dr. Michael Marendy (Textile Conservator) was the textile workshop instructor, I ran the photographic session and Christine Ianna (Heritage collections and conservation consultant) presented the metals workshop.

After the workshops, participants were given a tour of the Pittsworth Pioneer Historical Village.

I would like to thank the CHN-TR particularly Karen Barrett and Rhonda Brosnan for all their hard work. I would also like to thank Belinda McKinlay, Pittsworth Function Centre Manager for running around after us and lending me her microplane grater so that the participants of my workshop could surface clean the backs of their photos. Finally a big thank you to the participants of the photo workshop for their good humour and enthusiasm.

Textile workshop - Dr. Michael Marendy demonstrating how to make a textile  mounting system . (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Textile workshop – Dr. Michael Marendy demonstrating how to make a textile mounting system . (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Textiles Workshop - Day Two. Georgia Grier and  Jan Partridge. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Textiles Workshop – Day Two. Georgia Grier (at back) and Jan Partridge. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Textiles Workshop - Day Two. Michael Marendy helps Anne Arnold to determine placement of her lace for mounting. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Textiles Workshop – Day Two. Michael Marendy helps Anne Arnold to determine placement of her lace for mounting. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Objects workshop - Christine Ianna. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Metals workshop – Christine Ianna. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Metals workshop. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Metals workshop. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Metals workshop - Tarnished silver-plated tea pot. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Metals workshop – Tarnished silver-plated tea pot. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Photograph workshop. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Photograph workshop. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Photograph workshop - Beverley Ann Smith and Colleen McDermott Wood doing a spot of process identification. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Photograph workshop – Beverley Ann Smith and Colleen McDermott Wood doing a spot of process identification. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Photograph workshop- - surface cleaning the back of photograph. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Photograph workshop- – surface cleaning the back of photograph. (Image courtesy of Karen Barrett)

Pittsworth Pioneer Historical Village. (Image Lydia Egunnike)

Pittsworth Pioneer Historical Village. (Image Lydia Egunnike)

The curse of the clothes moth

The curse of the clothes moth!

A recent job has reminded me of how devastating clothes moth infestations can be in textile collections. There are two types of moth species that cause damage, the casemaking clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) and the webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella). More information on each clothes moth species can be found at:

Carpet beetles can also cause major textile damage.

Serious infestations can develop undetected in collection storage and display areas causing significant damage particularly to animal fibres such as wool, silk and fur. Moths prefer dirty fabric when laying their eggs and are attracted to textiles containing human sweat or other liquids that have been spilled onto them. It is the fabric-eating larvae that causes damage not the adult moths.

If you find infested objects, it is important to deal with the problem as quickly as possible.

If the objects have been badly damaged, are very fragile, or have significant heritage value, it is strongly recommended that you seek advice from a qualified textile conservator before undertaking any treatment.

If the textiles do not contain wood or glass components, they may be suitable to freeze. When packing collections for freezing, make sure objects that are badly damaged and/or fragile are properly supported during the packing process. See the State Library of Queensland info guide on safe freezing methods:

Once the objects have been frozen and safely defrosted, careful brush vacuuming can effectively remove larvae as well as surface dirt, hair and lint which could sustain future infestations. Be sure to also thoroughly vacuum storage and/or display areas including edges of carpets, along baseboards, underneath furniture, inside closets and other undisturbed areas where clothes moth larvae feed. Refer to the following websites for instructions on how to safely vacuum textiles:

Remember that freezing will not prevent future infestations.

You can minimise the risk of infestations by implementing a collection-wide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan:

Tips on salvaging fire damaged collections

Given the recent fire at the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, it is timely to share a few tips and useful websites on salvaging fire damaged objects.

Below I have outlined the basic salvage procedure. For more information please refer to the provided websites or contact your local MDO or a qualified conservator for specific advice.


Gentle reminder: Make sure your disaster preparedness plan is up to date and those involved in the disaster team are familiar with its contents and have received recent hands on salvage training.

Preservation planning

Does your museum have a preservation plan? Many do not. Most, if not all small organisations responsible for heritage, art and other cultural collections have to work within the constraints of very limited resources. Funding is often through small highly competitive grants and the day-to day management of the organisation and collections is dependent on a hard working but often decreasing number of volunteers. It is not uncommon for the long term care of collections to be unconsciously neglected or approached in an ad-hoc manner.

A long-range practical, preservation plan clearly defines an institution’s preservation needs and charts a course of action. It can be a powerful organisational tool. It ensures limited resources are effectively used, assists with funding applications and most importantly provides focused collection care actions.

Ideally preservation planning should occur after an organisation has had a formal significance assessment of their collections. A Preservation Needs Assessment is then carried out by a qualified conservator (see AICCM website below). A Preservation plan is developed using recommendations from the Preservation Needs Assessment. Once you have your plan, make sure you review and update it regularly.

If you would like to know more, below are some useful websites. You may also contact your local MDO.


Museums Australia Victoria:

Conservation Centre for Art and Historic Artefacts:

Northeast Document Conservation Centre: