2017 IPM Working Group – a library conservator’s experience

I was delighted to have the privilege of representing Columbia University Libraries at the 2017 Integrated Pest Management Working Group meeting, hosted by Winterthur Museum.  Colleagues from Columbia University Libraries have participated in many past IPM working groups and we have benefited greatly from the relationship with these lovely pest experts! Despite differences in the nature of our collections, libraries and museums face many of the same pest management issues and there is much we can learn from each other.

In the course of the meeting this year, several participants gave presentations on projects at their home institutions. I presented on two pest-related issues facing libraries:

  • Mold and pests in new acquisitions of archival collections
  • “Stowaway” organic materials tucked in books and archives that require special treatment and storage

For example, while processing the Charles Frederick Chandler Papers at Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library in 2011, the archivist discovered a letter from 1870 written by an anonymous source to the editor of a local paper, complaining that his daughter bought candies at a “first-class confectioner” near Union Square and found a cockroach inside one. The writer enclosed the candy, which still encloses the bug—147 years later!

Conservators created a custom enclosure to isolate the letter and its unusual contents for safe storage within the archive. The letter was hinged in a window mat deep enough to protect the candy and insect from crushing, and the entire package was encapsulated in Mylar.

I also shared our recent experiences with remediation of newly acquired archival collections. Fellow participants gave helpful suggestions for addressing the challenges of handling large collections with limited storage space and staff time.

From my fellow participants, I was excited to learn more about public awareness campaigns led by IPM coordinators within their own institutions to increase support for IPM efforts among staff, from security to visitor services to upper management. A common theme emerging from these success stories was the essential role of educating staff about the “why” behind IPM policies and instilling a sense of pride and responsibility for the preservation of our collections.

It was inspiring to collaborate with such a diverse team of highly-motivated experts. Thank you for a great meeting, IPM Working Group! See you next year!


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