The historical use of pesticides in museums (e.g. arsenic, mercuric chloride, etc.) creates an ongoing problem for many natural science, anthropology and herbaria collections. There are a number of resources available for further information in this area. Also visit our Health & Safety page in the Resources section of our site for important information on pesticides and residual dangers.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian website hosts a page on Pesticides that gives a brief overview of the issue.
As items are returned to tribal communities, exposure to chemicals and pesticides becomes an issue due to the health risks involved. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian document Pesticides and Repatriated Objects contains a 2005 bibliography of selected resources and presentations pertaining to the topic of pesticides and repatriated objects.
Odegaard, Nancy and Alyce Sadongei, 2005. Old Poisons, New Problems: A Museum Resource for Managing Contaminated Cultural Material. Altamira Press. This publication provides a practical guide to identifying, testing for, and dealing with contaminated cultural materials archived in museum collections. With increasing indigenous involvement in the collection, handling, and more recently the repatriation of cultural artifacts formerly held in museum archives, there is an increasing need to educate both the museum community and tribal members about the potential risks of pesticide contamination on museum collections, and provide the means to test for, identify, analyze, and safely handle these artifacts. Special features include worksheets for performing basic tests, charts of scientific and historical information on known pesticides, data resources, and illustrations. Chapter 2 “Identifying the Pesticides: Pesticide Names, Classification, and History of Use” by Marilen Pool, Nancy Odegaard and Melissa J. Huber has comprehensive information on Pesticide History and Characteristics. The authors have granted permission for this chapter to be downloaded.
The March 10, 2010 Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute Workshop on Pesticide Mitigationwas one of the first professional meetings dedicated to current research on removing pesticide residues from museum objects. Seven papers were presented at the workshop, and two more were added to introduce topics not focused on during the meeting but of significant importance when considering actual application of any of these methods.
American Institute for Conservation Health & Safety Committee – Kerith Koss Schrager, Conservator, Kerith Koss Schrager Art Conservation, Kathy Makos, Industrial Hygienist, retired, Smithsonian Institution and Anne Kingery-Schwartz, Conservator, Kingery Conservation. 2014. Safety Risk Management of Residual Pesticides in Collections.
Hawks, Catharine, Michael McCann, Kathyrn Makos, Lisa Goldberg, David Hinkamp, Dennis Ertel, Jr. Patricia Silence (eds.), 2011. Health & Safety for Museum Professionals. Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. Part 2, Chapter 9 on Chemical Hazards includes a discussion of pesticides, fumigants and preservatives.
Hayes, W.J., Jr., and E.R. Laws, Jr. (eds.), 1991.Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology. 3 volumes, Academic Press. new edition published in 2010. Covers general principles of pesticide toxicology, effects of pesticide classes, and data on 256 compounds that have documented human effects.
Rossol, M. and W.C. Jessup 1996. “No Magic Bullets: Ethical Considerations for Pest Management Strategies,” International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, Vol. 15. No. 2, pp. 145-168. This paper provides a cohesive and authoritative understanding of the ethical, legal, and regulatory aspects of pest management which must be considered when selecting treatments. Many biocides used in museums have been categorized by chemical class. Also included are some of the hazards associated with their use, the OSHA rules which must be followed, and the guarantees and assurances which should be written into contracts with commercial pest control operators.
Watterson, A., 1989, Pesticide Users’ Health and Safety Handbook: An International Guide. Van Nostrand Reinhold. (Out of print.)
A Product of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group