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News How does the Getty battle bugs?

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Jane Bassett, senior conservator for decorative arts, demonstrates “moth remediation” techniques, which the Getty undertook during COVID closures. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

​WUDPAC Class of 2017 alumna Madeline Corona is part of a team working on a project that has increased transparency and communication about pests both inside and outside the museum. From an April 22, 2021 article by Deborah Vankin for the Los Angeles Times:

Last March, as the lights went off in museums across California and galleries were shuttered in the first wave of coronavirus closures, a dangerous invader penetrated the Getty Museum in Brentwood. It crept into the darkened, quiet decorative arts galleries, which are filled with ornate furniture, delicate ceramics, rare clocks andintricately woven tapestries and rugs dating to the Medieval period. 

And it was hungry.

The interloper was the webbing clothes moth, which feeds on silk, wool and other organic material. The insect infiltrated other parts of the Getty Museum as well, but posed a particular threat to the fragile textiles and upholstered furniture.

As if COVID-19 shutdowns and the financial fallout weren’t enough, a noticeable uptick in unwanted pests, including insects and rodents, afflicted museums globally during the pandemic. Many insects are drawn to dark, quiet places. Empty museum galleries provided ideal environments, a feast of riches — quite literally.

The spring start of museum closures compounded the problem in many parts of the world, said Helena Jaeschke, a conservator who runs the British-based Pest Partners, which is dedicated to protecting heritage collections in southwest England.

“Spring is mating season in the Northern Hemisphere for pests, and that coincided with buildings closing down, with skeletal or no staff,” Jaeschke said. “There were no disturbances, like noise or lights, to limit pest activity. It was peak conditions for pests to spread.”

The Getty Museum took advantage of the extended COVID-19 closure to execute an intensive moth remediation program that involved nearly every department and took about 6,000 hours.

To read more about how the museum tackled their pest problem, visit the LA Times website.

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WUDPAC alumna Madeline Corona is part of a team working to increase transparency and communication about pests at the museum.

WUDPAC alumna Madeline Corona is part of a team working to increase transparency and communication about pests at the museum.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489