Keeping Pests Out of Museum Collections: 5 Tips for Curators

Unfortunately, museum collections—especially ones full of organic materials such as feathers, textiles and paper—can be an inviting home for a range of pests, and their damage can become extensive. Fortunately, there are several steps curators and museum directors can take to protect their collections. To keep pest infestations to a minimum, check out these five tips:

1. Make the environment uninviting—to bugs.

Pests are drawn to dark and damp conditions, making a basement storage room in a museum seem like a heaven to them. If possible, only store your items in rooms with controlled humidity and relatively cool temperatures. Pests also like dust, debris and other dead bugs so keep items as organised as possible and remember to clean dead bugs off window sills and out of light fixtures.

2. Keep them out.

Ideally, you should be committed to ensuring your museum is well sealed. Have a system in place for checking windows and doors to make sure they are secure, but also look for holes in walls and along foundations. If possible, store museum artifacts in plastic, air-tight, pest-proof containers.

3. Know the signs of damage or infestation.

If you want to be able to detect pest activity before it gets out of control, you need to know the signs of various pests. Collections may be threatened by a range of little creatures including silverfish, clothes moths, carpet beetles, book lice and termites.

Signs of these creatures include bite marks in museum artifacts, borer holes or small piles of dust that indicate something has been chewed. In the case of termites, you may even hear them chewing.

Other signs include seed-like bug larvae, cast skins and webbing. You may even see live bugs.

4. Separate new collections

Any new collections or exhibits that come to your museum could have unwanted pests on them, and you need to protect your collection from that risk. When you get new collections, keep them in a room by themselves until you can be sure they do not have bed bugs or any other hidden pests.

5. Use non-chemical trapping methods

If you find pests in your museum collection, you can work with a pest removal person to poison them and encourage them to leave. However, even if you don’t spot any pest activity, you can use non-chemical trapping methods as an extra layer of protection. For instance, you can always have sticky traps out for ants and other creatures.

For more tips and suggestions, consult with resources like All Seasons Carpet Cleaning & Pest Management.

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