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Dean’s Strategic Fund Report by Abigail Chapman

By Ian G Evans, on 7 June 2019

Thanks to this year’s Dean’s Strategic Fund, I was able to attend the West Dean College short course on Preventing Pests by Integrated Pest Management (IPM), held in the British Library Centre for Conservation on 6 June, 2019. Over the course of the day, entomologist David Pinniger introduced us to the key points of IPM strategy: Identification, Trapping, and Environment.

Identification – We learned about the harbourage and feeding habits of pests common in the museum and heritage sectors, including death watch, furniture, spider, and biscuit beetles; carpet beetle larvae or woolly bear larvae; webbing clothes and case-bearing clothes moths; and booklice and silverfish. We briefly covered their life cycles, as well as common signs of infestation, and saw many, many colourful photographs of the kinds of damage pests can do. This was certainly not a course for those with weak stomachs—a highlight of the day was viewing Mr Pinniger’s specimens of common pests through a magnifier!

Trapping—Regardless of the type of trap used, the importance of placing traps strategically and checking them frequently—a minimum of every three months—was highlighted. However, we covered a variety of traps, as well as treatments to be used once an infestation was discovered. These included treatment through exposure to both high and low temperatures, to carbon dioxide, and to nitrogen anoxia.

Environment—The importance of good housekeeping was repeatedly emphasised, particularly keeping areas free from dirt and debris, including frequently overlooked spaces such as vents, chimneys, and other voids in the fabric of the building. As pests often thrive on a certain level of moisture, maintaining relative humidity at appropriate levels was also deemed essential.

In the second half of the day, Karen Bradford, a preventative conservator, talked about her experience implementing an IPM Policy at the British Library since 2015. She reviewed her strategy for reducing the number of pest traps throughout the premises to accommodate staff reductions, while maintaining the quality of data gathered. We learned about the concept of Risk Zones, identifying areas historically affected by pests and implementing practical strategies to reduce the risks to the collection and building. Ms Bradford also kindly provided us with her IPM Policy, a very useful tool and template for developing such policies for our own organisations.

Of equal interest were the perspectives of the eighteen attendees, whose backgrounds included conservation, heritage, and library and museum collections management. Hearing of their encounters with pests was a valuable addition to the day.

My greatest takeaway from the course was that integrated pest management is not a single course of action by an individual, but rather a continuous behaviour to be encouraged throughout an organisation.

Abigail Chapman

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