News of a woodworm infestation in a museum store is enough to send chills through anyone who works with collections. Lauren Ephithite, Curatorial Assistant at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse tells us about how she dealt with it this winter.
Woodworm is a pesky museum pest which likes to munch on things like wood and willow. In our furniture store we have lots of chairs, wardrobes, benches, clocks and baskets. All things that woodworm like to eat. So when we discovered the pests we had to act quickly to save the collections.
It was essential that we froze all items in the store to prevent the spread of woodworm and halt any damage. We cleaned each object, made sure it was suitable to be frozen and then wrapped it in acid free tissue paper and polythene. We transported the objects to the large freezer at the Norfolk Collections Centre, to be frozen at -30 degrees.
Chairs wrapped in acid-free and polythene ready to be frozen
Objects loaded into our freezer
We didn’t want to put these objects straight back in the store, to potentially get infested again. Instead, we made the most of being closed to the public through the winter and utilised the space in the Collections Gallery and First Farmers Gallery to store the items. When the store was completely empty we thoroughly cleaned the room and shelving. Then the race was on to move the objects out of display areas in time for February Half Term.
Not only were we stopping pest damage. We took this opportunity to photograph every item, to improve how they were being stored and to have accurate locations on the Modes database. We also took the time to review our collections, make rationalisation decisions, accessioning objects, writing statement of significances and a collections level description.
We now know much more about our collections. Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse has a very important collection of vernacular or common furniture. Ordinary furniture is unusual to be in a museum collection. Many pieces have featured in important exhibitions on this topic. Most are locally made and were used by local people.
We couldn’t have done all this work without our fantastic team of Collections Volunteers. From November to February we cleaned, photographed, wrapped and froze almost 400 objects. It was a great team effort and we were supported by Dave Savage, Museum Technician, David Harvey, Conservator and everyone at Gressenhall from the Front of House team and the Learning Team.
Have a pest infestation of your own? We can help, our freezer is available to hire. Contact Norfolk Museums Conservation and Design Services for more details.