by Beverly Wright, Pest Control Technician
What is Pest Control?
Simply put, it is the control of pests in the museum. This is done though the monitoring of insect and rodent traps placed throughout the museum. These are placed in areas where pests would normally be found such as: dark corners, along walls, under sinks, and lunch or coffee rooms.
What do we do?
In addition to monitoring traps, the pest control technician must visually inspect all incoming materials for signs of pests. Once an item is deemed to be problematic it is treated either by freezing or by fumigating with carbon dioxide (CO2). When fumigation takes place, an item is placed in our CO2 bubble and is subjected to a 60 percent carbon dioxide atmosphere for three continuous weeks. This process ensures the item will be pest-free upon completion.
Why do we need pest control?
Some pests feed on materials housed within our collections. Animal skins, fur, feathers, wood, even books are prone to infestation. If unchecked, pests may feed upon such materials and eventually destroy them beyond repair. Once an infestation is discovered, full measures are then deployed to deal with it. For example, when powderpost beetles were discovered in sculptures in the Where Symbols Meet exhibition everything in that gallery was separated and fumigated. The gallery itself was also cleaned from top to bottom. Had this situation gone undetected who knows how much damage would have resulted, or how many wooden sculptures would have been lost forever.