41st Annual Meeting – Workshop – Integrated Pest Management for Collections

This was a full-day workshop taught by three excellent and complementary instructors, Pat Kelley (Vice-President, Insects Limited), Emily Kaplan (Conservator, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian), and Rachael Perkins Arenstein (A.M. Art Conservation, LLC).  The day was broken into four sessions:

  • Introduction to IPM principles (including physical prevention, policies and procedures)
  • Behind-the-scenes (and inside the nooks and crannies) tour and real-life demonstration of pest monitoring and trapping in the Eiteljorg Museum of Native American and Western Art

IMG_7781    IPM Eiteljorg walkthrough (7)

  • Presentation/hands-on quiz on pest identification

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  • Presentation/practice session on remedial infestation treatments

While the emphasis was on museum objects (specifically natural history collections), there were many good lessons learned that translate to my field of interest, libraries and archives, as well as to other cultural heritage repositories.  I highly recommend this workshop to anyone who has responsibilities in this area (I thought about writing “interest” but when it comes to bugs, that’s putting it a little strongly for many of us).  I’d like to see this become an on-going AIC workshop.  My only suggestion for improvement would be to expand the pest ID presentation, which sped by too quickly for my novice’s eyes.
Key takeaways:

  • There is a comprehensive and dynamic resource that pulls together almost all the IPM we would ever need: www.MuseumPests.net, a product of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group, which is an interdisciplinary and independent professional group that is informally linked with AIC and also the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). An associated listserv, Pest List, gives amateurs a place to ask questions of the professional community, confirm ID of pests, etc.
  • A key guiding principle of IPM is to reduce the use of chemical pesticides for many compelling reasons, including personal health and safety, environmental impact, cost, effective prevention of (rather than reaction to) pest-related damage, and early warning/response in the event of an infestation.
  • IPM has to be a group effort that requires buy-in from a diverse group of stakeholders, including the highest levels of institution administration, the facilities managers, housekeeping staff, groundskeepers, security managers and patrol staff, pest management experts either within or contracted from outside the organization, curatorial/collection manager/registrarial and support staff, caterers and shop managers, exhibit designers, and human resources staff, as well as conservation/preservation staff.
  • Including IPM as a part of an overall risk management strategy may be a way to draw resources to its successful implementation.
  • Well-written, approved, distributed, promoted, and enforced policies and procedures are vital to a successful IPM program.
  • Species identification is crucial in order to  prevent/eradicate; it informs the feeding patterns, reproductive cycles, behavior, and environmental conditions that can be targeted/controlled to ensure successful trapping
  • Traps come in various shapes, sizes, and odors (pheromones are species specific, so you have to identify what you have before you purchase the pheromone trap).  A “blunder trap” has no pheromone or bait but is just sticky and is placed carefully in the likely path of a pest.  A pheromone lure with sticky trap mimics the scent exuded by a specific species of female to attract males.  Poisoned bait traps are also used, but you can’t control where the pest goes off to die.
  • IPM is a great field for sleuths and puzzlers; but sometimes the answer (i.e. the cause of the infestation) is elusive, so there are some cold cases.
  • Common museum pests are mostly moths and beetles, many of which look pretty similar to me so I’d need professional confirmation of my amateur ID; I’m going to seek out and cultivate a relationship with a local entomologist
  • Remedial treatments include isolation, temperature (heat and freezing), and anoxia (nitrogen, argon, CO2).  CO2 requires a pesticide license.  Pesticides and fumigation are the last resorts.  Heat treatments can be very cheap (black plastic bag in the sun, car with the windows closed on a hot summer day).  Do not use anoxia if you have Prussian blue pigments.
  • Freeze/thaw/refreeze is *not* necessary; just freezing for the right length of time will do the job
  • My own personal observation: squeamishness may diminish when you get up close and personal on a regular basis.

And here is a list of some of the products and equipment that they demonstrated (this is not an endorsement, just information sharing)

  • Door sweeps: sealeze.com
  • Copper gauze for stuffing holes: Stuf-fit
  • Landscape fabric: Geo Xcluder
  • Desiccating treatment for high-risk displays (i.e. food art): diatomaceous earth
  • Oxygen scavenger: Ageless
  • Films for air-tight sealing: Marvelseal (opaque) and Escal (transparent) or Aclar (also transparent) can be heat-sealed together
  • Cube of Marvelseal: Zer02 cube system
  • Current fumigants: sulfuryl fluoride and phosphene (need a license)
  • Other effective pesticide: boric acid, which is available loaded into a silverfish pack (corrugated board)
  • Microscope: The Professor, stereoscope, battery powered, by Ken-A-Vision, lowest price at B&H Photovideo (~$80)
  •   We didn’t walk away with samples of sticky traps, but I’d add those to this list if I had the brand names etc.

Selected recommended publications:
Florian, Mary-Lou. Heritage eaters: Insects and fungi in heritage collections. London: James & James (Science Publishers) Ltd., 1997.
Kingsley, Helen; David Pinniger, Amber Xavier-Rowe, Peter Winsor. Integrated Pest Management for Collections: Proceedings of 2001: A Pest Odyssey. London: English Heritage, 2001.
Pinniger, David. Pest Management: a practical guide. Cambridge: Collections Trust, [2009].
Pinniger, David. Pest Management in Museums, Archives, and Historic Houses. London Archetype Press, 2001 (2004 reprint).
Winsor, Peter; David Pinniger, Louise Bacon, Bob Child, Kerren Harris, Dee Lauder, Julie Phippard and Amber Xavier-Rowe. Integrated Pest Management for Collections Proceedings of 2011: A Pest Odyssey, 10 Years Later.  London: English Heritage, 2011.

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