Museum Pest Management

Challenging Situational Pest Control 

Museums are treasure chests of our historical and cultural heritage. They hold varied collections, furnishings, ethnographic artifacts and objects from around the world. As humans, we view and appreciate these items for their cultural value. Unfortunately,
there is an entirely different world of organisms that appreciate these items solely for
their nutritional value. Wood, furs, wool, feathers, silk, paper, parchment, seeds, and plants all make up the menu for a wide variety of “museum pests.”

Too often the first encounter with a museum pest is a chance discovery of damage to an artifact. Due to the nature of the rareness or uniqueness of museum pieces prevention of damage should be a strong component of a pest management and prevention program. Protection of museum objects requires an integrated pest management program. Integrated pest management (IPM) is the use of several strategies and techniques to control or prevent pest outbreaks and can involve the use of some pesticides.

Regular detailed inspection of artifacts in storage and on display is an essential and often undervalued part of the IPM process. When the eyes are not in use, monitoring of the site with blunder traps and pheromone traps is of great value. It is a continuous process that allows discovery of problems before they get out of hand. Once you determine the species of concern (see “Bad Bugs”), the situation can be evaluated and a method of remediation can be devised.

At this point, a great deal of communication and co-operation between conservators, the pest control professional, facility managers, and housekeeping needs to be established. Conservators understand the makeup of the artifacts in question and can answer unknowns on how it may respond to exposure to temperature, gases, or other devices and chemicals. The pest control and museum professional should both have a wide scope of experience with pest control devices, chemicals, strategies and technical knowledge on how the pests will react to different options. The facility manager will have the best knowledge of the building structure, design, and capabilities for alteration. Housekeeping is the essential group for a pest free environment. “Sanitation is Pest Control.” The situation determines the pest control methods of choice, and with extensive knowledge, experience, and cooperation between these groups the choices available are more numerous.

by Alain VanRyckeghem
Technical Director
Insects Limited, Inc.

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