Preserving Our History: Forever is a Long Time

By Patrick Kelley, ACE

The definition of the word “Forever” from Webster’s New World College Dictionary is the following: for eternity; for always; endlessly. The word also has a very practical meaning to museum curators and collections managers. Forever is the amount of time these custodians of our history are supposed to preserve the pieces that we value most. Unfortunately, the detrimental effects of light, humidity and pests don’t buy into the whole “forever” philosophy and can rapidly deteriorate those things precious to us. It would be easy to become overwhelmed by this seemingly impossible task and just give up. Instead, museum staffers need to use all of the resources given to them to control what can be controlled. From a pest standpoint, the best means of doing this would be to implement an integrated pest management program. A solid IPM program will keep a museum “forever” vigilant in their pest prevention measures and keep pest damage at an absolute minimum.

To implement an IPM program, a museum should:

• Choose an IPM Team Leader to spearhead the program

• Create a support team around the leader to assist with IPM issues

• Follow an IPM Strategy for any incoming artifacts

• Focus on the riskiest items in collections. This could be Fur, Feathers, Wool, Silk, Insect
Specimens, Parchment & Velum, Papier Mache, Animal Skins, Dried Plants and Seeds,
Sapwood, Any Damp Organic Material

• Monitor for pests around the riskiest items using sticky traps and pheromones

• Sanitation—Eliminate food and harborage for pests

• Exclusion—Look for structural improvements that will keep pests from entering

• Be creative and adapt the program to fit your institution needs


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