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Wednesday, May 31 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
080. (Objects) Bedbugs: A Pesky Problem

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Insect infestations in and around ethnographic and historic objects have long been an issue for conservators. In museum and private collections pests have severely damaged historic and artistic textiles. The main culprits, webbing moths and carpet beetles, consume protein fibers, damaging wool and silk pieces in varying degrees. Unfortunately, as a result of pesticide resistance and other factors, bedbugs have been added to the list of pests infecting objects treated by conservators in the last few years. Once considered only a problem in run-down, unhygienic housing, bedbug (Cimex lectularius) infestations have "undergone a resurgence in pest status and can now be found even in the finest hotels and living accommodations*”. These resilient pests feed on humans almost exclusively, biting and consuming blood from sleeping or sedentary targets, mostly at night. During the day, bedbugs retreat to hide in dark and hard to access places near where they tend to feed. Successful eradication is particularly difficult, as is testified to by professional, commercial pest control specialists. The conservator has the additional concern that bedbugs can damage textiles, by leaving behind fecal spots, blood spots, egg cases and odors. This case study focuses on the treatment of a Lakota tipi liner, brought to the Textile Conservation Workshop in 2016 because of a bedbug infestation in a client's home. A literature review was conducted regarding current pest management protocols and procedures used by conservators and by professionals in the commercial pest control industry. The most widely accepted treatments used by conservators include vacuuming, low-temperature treatment/freezing, and anoxic chambers. Some references to heat treatment solutions for infestations have been recently published. Where bed bugs are concerned¸ heat treatments can be very effective. Commercial treatments of bedbug infestations include several different extreme heat temperature methods, only some of which could be considered for use on historic textiles. The research, object examination an eventual freezing and then heating procedures that were implemented in this case are the result of searching for a low-tech solution to adequately eradicate bedbugs in textiles and composite objects. *A. M. Sutherland, UC Cooperative Extension, Alameda Co.; D.-H. Choe, Entomology, UC Riverside; and V. R. Lewis, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley.

avatar for Meredith Wilcox-Levine

Meredith Wilcox-Levine

Textile Conservator, Textile Conservation Workshop
Textile Conservator at the Textile Conservation Workshop. 2015 Graduate from the University of Rhode Island, with internships at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the National Museum of American History.

Wednesday May 31, 2017 3:30pm - 4:00pm CDT
Riverside West Exhibit Hall Exhibit Level, East Tower
  9. Poster, Objects