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Wednesday, May 15 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Collection Care) Pigeon - Friend or Foe? Threatening Artworks Worldwide

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Collection care aims at reducing the occurrence and intensity of damage and deterioration of artworks, and at minimising the need of remedial conservation. This paper discusses one agent of deterioration which is not only a threat to artworks in outdoor and indoor display across the globe but is also detrimental to human health – ‘Pigeon’. Pigeons attract major museum pests, as well as uric acid contained in their droppings can cause irreparable loss. Uric acid not only corrodes the surface of the calciferous sandstone but continues the deteriorating effect for long-term even after cleaning. The excreta harbours fungi which grow mycelia into the structure resulting in increased porosity, efflorescence and spalling of the stone. These fungi are also responsible for causing histoplasmosis in humans. In metals, the heterocyclic compound of uric acid accelerates corrosion and interacts with the protective oxidised layers of bronze and copper. Similarly, other inorganic and organic materials suffer from high acid and stains from pigeons’ droppings. Whereas, there are several bird deterrent systems like population reduction, auditory, visual and tactile repulsion, mostly developed by non-conservation based companies, each method must be carefully examined for its agreement with the ethics and laws of bird protection – locally and globally. Moreover, not all methods that are harmless to pigeons are safe to be installed on historical buildings - which needs another consideration. Starting with literature review, compiling various case studies from Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, Grand Egyptian Museum which led to remedial conservation of artworks to how problems of pigeons has been solved in open areas like in Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. and Trafalgar Square, London, the paper presents various preventive and treatment measures that Institute of Conservation – University of Applied Arts Vienna has undertaken. As part of Indo-Austrian collaboration projects, the Institute of Conservation is working on conceptualisation of collection care at Napier Museum, Trivandrum, India since 2016. The museum building is historical Indo-Saracenic edifice which, in addition to masterpieces from 1st to 18th century, is home to pigeons as well. As a result, pigeon droppings on floor, showcases and objects is a major issue. Preventive measures proposed in this museum are based on the successful bird deterrent system being practised in Austria. The paper describes the bird deterrent system in use in Austria – with focus on type, material, installation, maintenance, longevity, effectiveness, and costs, and how this system is adapted to be useful in Napier Museum in India. In outdoor spaces, pigeons are often good source of enjoyment. What has been now controlled in Trafalgar square, London is a present situation of city centre of Milan. In front of Duomo, people feed pigeons and in turn pigeons make this place their habitat, resulting in heavy depositions of droppings on outdoor sculptures due to no use of deterrent system there. Although, it is not wise to disturb the ecosystem, it is however necessary to divert them only enough so that artworks and pigeons could co-exist in harmony.

avatar for Tanushree Gupta

Tanushree Gupta

Staff member, Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts Vienna
Tanushree Gupta completed her doctoral studies in art conservation in 2016 from National Museum Institute, New Delhi, from where she obtained her master degree as well in 2010. She had been PhD intern at the Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts Vienna under three... Read More →

avatar for Gabriela Krist

Gabriela Krist

Professor, Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts Vienna
Gabriela Krist is university professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute of Conservation, since 1999. She studied conservation at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, as well as art history and archaeology in Vienna and Salzburg. For many years she worked for ICCROM... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 2:30pm - 3:00pm 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 Tanushree Gupta, Dr., Gabriela Krist, Prof. Dr.
  • Abstract ID 19131
  • Tags collection care,pigeon droppings,uric acid,bird deterrents