Blog Archives

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.

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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.

 

 

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.