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What can we do to protect our museum collections from museum pests?
Establish an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for your museum. This is a site-specific decision-making system to determine if, when, and where pest suppression is necessary. Pesticides are used only as a last resort, because they are a hazard to the environment, museum collections, and the health of people handling the pesticides and the collections. The IPM process is cyclical and involves regular inspections and pest monitoring as well as environmental monitoring. Pest identification, establishing priorities and action thresholds, modifying pest habitats, good housekeeping, and pest exclusion techniques are all a part of this process. Non-chemical and chemical treatments are used when necessary and the results are evaluated. All monitoring and treatments are documented. Educating and building consensus with other park staff to participate in the process is key to the success of any IPM program.
What should I do if I find live pests or pest evidence in the museum?
If an infestation is found on objects, isolate them immediately. Identify the pests and determine if they are museum pests likely to harm the objects. Determine the source and extent of the infestation. Develop a treatment strategy based on the identity of the pest and the materials and condition of the object. Consult a conservator to discuss treatment options such as cleaning (often vacuum cleaning), freezing, anoxic environments, chemical fumigation, or other options. Document the infestation and treatments.
If the infestation is not found on museum objects, it is important to keep the pests from contact with objects with effective exclusion and isolation techniques. Eliminate the infestation through other IPM methods. Do not panic and rush to use inappropriate chemical treatments to kill pests. Your regional or Servicewide IPM Coordinator must first approve any pesticide use on National Park Service property. Consult Carol DiSalvo, WASO IPM Coordinator, or your regional IPM Coordinator when any pesticides are being considered for use at a NPS site.
Is help available to set up an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan at our National Park?
Chapter 5: Biological Infestations in the NPS Museum Handbook, Part 1, gives clear and thoughtful guidelines on setting up an Integrated Pest Management plan for museum collections at a park. Park staff with collections care responsibilities can contact Barbara Cumberland, IPM Coordinator at Harpers Ferry Center-Conservation, for advice on any aspect of collection pest management.
Can this assistance include travel to our park and to develop an IPM program specific to our site and conditions?
The HFC Conservation IPM Coordinator is available to give on-site assistance to parks wishing to establish a museum-oriented IPM program. We will help set up a monitoring and trapping program, discuss systems of documentation, advise on structural modifications, and offer strategies for dealing with and avoiding infestations.
We recognize that parks vary widely in the conditions surrounding their museum objects, collection storage facilities, exhibit areas and historic furnished structures. The climate and physical structures influence pest problems at these varied sites. Staff to deal with pest monitoring and control is often limited at many parks. However, the park needs to provide the commitment that a staff member or members will have the time available to follow through with an ongoing pest-monitoring program and other IPM actions.
A computer program is used to document pest monitoring data and organize them in various reports and graphs. Our updated program uses Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel software. This is only one of many suitable methods that document monitoring information by computer. Contact Barbara Cumberland for more information. Non-computer generated survey forms can also be used and be kept as a permanent record at the park.