In museums and collections worldwide, there are two related and interlinked problems for which ICM and IPARC are offering ecological solutions:
- Insects infestation in artworks and heritage objects
- Biocide residues in artworks and heritage objects
ICM are committed to helping museums and collections worldwide to create and maintain a pest-free and healthy working environment. We have treatment facilities in Brussels, Berlin and London and also a mobile unit (Photo of ICM-truck).
Problem 1: Insects
Insects can damage objects made of organic material to a point of complete destruction if undetected or if no action is taken. A woodboring beetle can lays eggs on a log of firewood or on a renaissance panel painting. A clothes moth or the so-called carpet beetle will eat the fibres of a woollen sweater just as they will eat the fibres of a medieval tapestry. The same moth or carpet beetle will attack taxidermy, stuffed animals: feathers, fur, skin are a welcome diet. Yet other insects have specialized on other materials. Contemporary art is just as likely to be attacked as old artworks.
Insects pose a constant threat to collections; as a logical consequence, collections must be constantly monitored. Monitoring is one of the cornerstones of IPM -Integrated Pest Management. (ICM offer high quality made-in-Europe monitoring traps, none of them contains any toxins. See below for more information.)
Problem 2: Biocides
At least in Europe most biocides are banned today. Preceding the ban many of them had been identified and classified as so-called CMR substances with carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic properties. In the past however, these substances have been generously applied to all sorts of collections, all sorts of materials, also in libraries and archives. Especially since the beginning of the 2oth century and then again since the 1950s, with the invention of synthetic biocides, the toxification of collections was widespread to either kill an established insect or fungi attack or to prevent insects or fungi from attacking the objects. Some examples of some of the most widely applied substances: Arsenic, Mercury, Naphthalene, PCP, DDT, Lindane.
Museums worldwide are affected; tens of millions of objects are contaminated. People who are / were exposed have fallen ill. It is an issue that must be addressed.
One solution for both problems: humidified warm air
In principle we can apply one method for two problems, one of which is the origin of the other.
Insects die when exposed to certain temperatures – usually in the range of 42 – 52°C depending on the species – for a certain length of time. By humidifying the air via our ICM software we make sure that the object humidity remains stable throughout the entire process (i.e. the warming, the holding and the cooling phases).
At the same time biocide molecules are released not only from the surface of contaminated objects but also from deeper layers. ICM’s biocide decontamination process is based on the same principles as the insect disinfection yet certain parameters are different. A sophisticated filtering unit for capturing the released molecules is being developed to meet highest safety standards. ICM is collaborating with one of the leading experts in the field of biocide contamination in museums, Dr. Boaz Paz. Dr. Paz is investigating a whole range of contaminated materials and biocides in context with the ICM treatment. The study is ongoing; first results have already been presented at two Das Grüne Museum conferences in Cologne and Munich. The conservation community will be informed about further results in due time.
Which objects can be treated?
ICM can treat virtually all organic materials and object: Wood, textiles, natural history specimens, taxidermy, paper, leather. In the past thirty years we’ve treated furniture, carpets, musical instruments, polychrome sculpture, and both canvas and panel paintings.
IPM Integrated Pest Management
A thorough IPM strategy is the very basis for successfully controlling pests in your collection. Get David Pinniger’s book Integrated Pest Management in Cultural Heritage, published by Archetype Books, to get the most comprehensive overview.
- What do Insects need: Food – Harbourage – Warmth (all insects) – Water/humidity (some insects). Your collection and your building supply just these key services to the insect if you don’t pay attention, prevent and act.
- How do insects get in the building? Through windows, underneath doors, eaves or downpipes. They can travel in clothes of humans or in food they bring in. Infested art crates or boxes can also be the source. Naturally, any infested art works themselves can be the origin of a cross infestation.
- How can you keep insects out? Close windows – seal leaky windows, eaves & pipes with wire mesh – seal cracks in walls and ceilings (with silicone for example) – put bristle strips under doors – inspect new arrivals carefully – Quarantine objects if they are infested or if you suspect an infestation.
- Hygiene is key in IPM! Any rubbish, human food remnants, wool fibres, human hair, human skin particles, dead insects such as flies, anything of organic origin may serve as food for insect and must be avoided. Dead birds or rodents will provide food for insects and are often the source of an infestation that spreads further. You don’t want bird’s nests on or near your building as they are crawling with insects. Obviously High humidity levels will not only increase the likelihood of insect attack, but also that of fungal growth (mould).
Who have ICM worked for?
ICM has worked for major museums and collections. Find some references here
ICM is sponsoring: