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Re: pest management

I dont have experience with repellent substances to keep insects away from
museum storage (it could work at home though), but I believe that if insects
can sense the substance it is already too late - they are far inside the
house and storage areas. My experience after a large insect infestation of
cloth moths in 1995 is that the only preventive method to keep insects away
from museum storage is the so called Integrated Pest Management method. That
means that the museum needs to have staff which are trained and aware of the
problem. And also staff responsible for the storage areas so that the
objects and drawers get checked regularly for insects and that all areas are
cleaned with regular intervals. At our museum there are restrictive
admittance to the textile storage (you have to have a reason to go there)
and no wool cloths are permitted in there. You also have to change shoes or
put protection over your shoes. This is also because that we dont want to
get a lots of dirt and dust in the rooms. The floors around all outer walls
have broader double sided tape with a sticky surface. And we check these
regularly and change them when needed. We also have feromone traps spread
out in the rooms to attract male cloth moths (but if you find some there you
already have a big problem).

All new objects are thoroughly investigated in another area before they
enter the storage areas. If they can stand the treatment they will be freeze
treated (-30°C for 7-10 days) or treated in a low oxygen environment.
Sensitive objects are sealed in plastic and put in quarantine for some
months before new investigation and entering the storage rooms. This include
objects on loan coming home. And also partly borrowed objects. If the
borrowing institution cant guarantee insect free objects we freeze them
(after asking for permission of course). We always investigate the object
before entering the exhibition area. And during exhibition time we clean and
check the cases regularly, and put sticky traps when possible.

All other museum staff needs to be well aware of the problem, and especially
cleaning staff and guides needs to be trained of how, where and when you can
suspect bugs and how they look so that you have help finding insects in all
other areas in the museum. It also make the problem and work visible for the
rest of the staff and show the importance of educated staff for the
management (it is very expensive with insect extermination).

Perhaps it seems like a lots of work for eventually getting some bugs in the
storage rooms. But if you have gone through a large insect infestation you
realize that the checking and cleaning is a piece of cake compared to the
insect extermination. Not mention all the damage they do to the objects.

Kerstin Petersson
Textile Conservator
National Museum of Ethnography

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