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Pests pose a new threat to museums that have been shuttered during lockdown.

Daria Simone Harper
Jul 24, 2020 3:14PM, via The Art Newspaper

A gray silverfish. Photo by Pudding4brains, via Wikimedia Commons.

As museums struggle to navigate the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen their doors, some face the challenge of a new threat to their collections: pests. An influx of pests in museums may be largely attributed to the conditions brought on by the COVID-19 lockdown, like unattended spaces, warmer weather, and the lack of staff available to closely tend to the conditions of collections.

Funded by Historic England, the South West Museum Development Programme has created an emergency campaign to help institutions handle the pest issue. Helena Jaeschke, the conservation development officer with the program, said in a statement to The Art Newspaper:

Museums are worried that there may have been a vast increase in pest infection during lockdown. There were already concerns that spring activity (when pests emerge to mate and lay eggs) was getting earlier each year, and obviously this year the timing coincided with the lockdown.

Webbing Clothes Moths and Carpet Beetles seem to pose the greatest risk to collections right now. According to entomologist David Pinniger—who advises English Heritage and several other museums on pest management—a fairly new species called the Gray Silverfish also appears to be spreading throughout various London museums. The Museum of London’s costume store brought attention to the Gray Silverfish back in 2015, and is developing a test product to control the pests.

Daria Simone Harper
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