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Wednesday, May 15 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Collection Care) The Peabody Museum Moth Mitigation Project: Approaches to the Preservation of Ethnographic Objects in the Aftermath of a Webbing Clothes Moth Infestation

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The volume of moth outbreaks in museum settings has increased at an alarming rate throughout the last decade, and these infestations continue to be particularly devastating throughout the Northeastern United States. In 2016, staff discovered an infestation of webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) concentrated in the largest storeroom for ethnographic objects at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. The emergence and spread of webbing clothes moths posed an imminent threat of material loss and damage to the collection, which needed to be dealt with in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner. To mitigate damage to the collection, staff quickly responded by executing an emergency response protocol aimed at containing the moths and preventing their spread throughout the museum. This successful protocol resulted in the assembly of a dedicated team of collections assistants, technicians and conservators to assess, disinfest, clean, and treat the objects affected by the webbing clothes moth infestation. This effort was termed, “The Moth Mitigation Project”—an endeavor which works concurrently with the Museum’s pre-existing Integrated Pest Management activities to specifically address the moth outbreak. Additionally, staff have taken this opportunity to carry out other critical collections care activities, such as intensive cleaning of the shelves and storage bay areas, construction of more appropriate archival housing where needed and better organization of storage areas that reflect both collections and curatorial concerns. This paper will summarize the steps taken by Peabody staff thus far throughout this Project, along with the challenges encountered, in an effort to provide guidance to other museum professionals facing similar issues. Furthermore, we aim to discuss our approach to caring for culturally sensitive ethnographic objects, which present a unique set of parameters—such as handling and care considerations—that inform and guide our mitigation activities. Lastly, for those institutions not currently affected by such an infestation, this paper will provide insight and recommendations on how to prevent pest activities and further protect collections from insect damage. We will also use a case-study drawn from an additional, smaller incidence within the museum to discuss the causes, challenges and surprises related to webbing clothes moth outbreaks.

avatar for Cassy Cutulle

Cassy Cutulle

Assistant Conservator, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Cassy Cutulle attended the University of Massachusetts in Boston from 2006 to 2010, graduating summa cum laude with a BA in archaeology and history and a minor in art history. She completed graduate studies at University College London (UCL) from 2011 to 2014, where she obtained an... Read More →
avatar for Matthew F. Vigneau

Matthew F. Vigneau

Collection Manager/Registrar, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Matthew Vigneau graduated from Ithaca College with a BA in History. He completed his graduate degree at the Harvard University Extension School with a Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies. During his graduate work he focused his studies on collections management. Matthew has worked... Read More →

avatar for Khanh Nguyen

Khanh Nguyen

Collection Manager/Registrar, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Khanh Nguyen graduated from Williams College (MA) in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Classics. She taught English for two years in Austria through the Fulbright Commission after graduation. Before joining the Integrated Pest Management team at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology... Read More →
avatar for Lindsay Koso

Lindsay Koso

Student, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
avatar for Mollie Denhard

Mollie Denhard

Assistant Preparator, Peabody Essex Museum
Mollie Denhard received a BA in Studio Art from Wheaton College (MA), with minors in Art History and French. She later completed an MLA degree in Museum Studies at the Harvard Extension School, and occasionally pursues continuing education at the North Bennet Street School in Boston... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 3:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Salon A2-A3, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Collection Care
  • Track Collection Care
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Cassy Cutulle, Lindsay Koso, Matthew Vigneau, Khanh Nguyen, Mollie Denhard
  • Abstract ID 18726
  • Tags Webbing clothes moths,mitigation,integrated pest management,ethnographic,collections care