Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Treating Mouldy Objects - Completed - October 19, 2012

October 19, 2012

Immediately after carefully cleaning and rinsing, the objects treated were hung up outside to dry in the sun for the rest of the day (from 10:30 Am until 3:30 Pm).  Once again, we moved them to follow the direct sunlight since there were shade trees nearby.  When they were brought inside all except one felt dry to the touch.  We did put them out in the sun the next day as well to complete the drying process.  In all cases they were dry to the touch including in all the out of the way places we checked (around folds and peaks on the inside).    Although all visible signs of mould no longer appear we will continue to check them on a regular basis (at least monthly) to ensure there is no additional mould growth.  The black leather gloves continued to have a musty smell which was likely just absorbed due to proximity with the other objects.

The silk insert inside one of the objects was left to dry inside and was dry to the touch by the end of the day. Below is a photograph of the insert showing it removed for cleaning.  The silk is stitched onto a paper backing.  The paper appears to be from a newspaper.

Kings Canadian Hussar's ceremonial hat silk insert 
The objects were all wrapped in acid free paper, stored in banker's boxes, and put away in the museum storage.  A regular check will determine if we have removed the problematic mould infestation.  After several months without evidence of mould growth it would be acceptable to put these objects in with others as part of an exhibit.

Conservation Tip: There are several methods that can be used to remove or reduce the musty odours found on leathers, textiles, and papers .  None of which are guaranteed but might be worth the time, cost and effort.  The best and lowest cost alternative is to place the object in direct sunlight preferably with a breeze.  The sun's ultraviolet light actually will help to break down what is causing the smell.   Keep in mind that some materials will fade with too much sunlight so be cautious and try only a few hours in the sun at first.  Consult a conservator if you are not sure.  Something else you can try which may just reduce odors without having a major effect on what causes them (another lower cost alternative) is storing the objects for a longer period of time in an enclosed container with known odour absorbing materials such as baking soda, charcoal briquettes, or kitty litter.  The objects must not directly contact the odour absorbing materials so put them in an open container inside a larger container that can be closed.  Open it up from time to time (perhaps, weekly?) take the object out and see if the smell is reduced.  It could take several months and is not guaranteed.

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