There are numerous resources online that provide information and guidance on how to “deal” with mold.
This is a brief synthesis.
Mold grows on organic materials in suitable conditions: relative humidity higher than 65%, oxygen and lack of air circulation, temperatures preferably in the range of 50 – 95°F. Mold decomposes the organic material (something we are usually trying to safe) and produces substances that can cause illnesses and allergic reactions.
During intervention on a mold outbreak:
make sure to protect yourself first: wear nitrile gloves and make sure mold does not come into contact with your skin; wash hands after removing gloves; do not eat and drink in an environment where mold is present; wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as FFP3 dust mask and goggles, up to respirators and body suits in case of large outbreaks;
try to identify and address the cause(s) of the mold outbreak;
create some air circulation, using fans;
use dehumidification equipment to reduce the relative humidity below 65%;
use HEPA vacuum to remove mold growth;
consult a conservator for appropriate of intervention depending on substrate/artifact.
In case of symptoms such as skin rash or asthma, stop immediately and consult your doctor.
Our thoughts are with all the people displaced by tropical storm Barry and affected by the severe weather along the East Coast. Feel free to reach out for support and answers to your questions. Your local museums and institutions may be overwhelmed by the requests of help or may be focused on preparing in case the emergency materializes. Wherever you are, you can reach us through the numbers and emails listed on our Facebook page. We are glad and eager to help.
If you have an emergency plan, review it with everyone involved. Make sure the phone numbers in your list are current. If you have art pieces or storage close to the ground and are afraid your space may become flooded, move your collection to increase its distance from the floor. For example, if you have large paintings hanging from the walls and close to the floor, consider placing them flat on tables.
A list of activities from the American Institute for Conservation (AIC)s’ website for emergency preparedness:
If you have a disaster plan, dust it off and make sure it’s up to date.
If you don’t have a plan, commit to creating one by making a timeline for developing it.
Conduct a building evacuation drill, evaluate the results, and discuss ways to improve your staff’s performance.
Update your staff contact information and create a wallet-size version of your emergency contact roster using the Pocket Response Plan™ (PReP™)
Identify the three biggest risks to your collection or building (such as a dust storm, leaking water pipe, heavy snow, or power failure) and outline steps to mitigate them. You can use FAIC’s tools for risk evaluation to guide your assessment.
Identify and prioritize important collection materials.
Eliminate hazards such as storage in hallways, blocked fire exits, or improper storage of paints, solvents, etc.
Make a plan to install any needed safety systems.
Plan to train and drill an in-house disaster team.
Provide staff with easily accessible disaster response information, such as the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel.
Get to know your local firefighters and police–invite them to come tour your institution and give you pointers on safety and preparedness.
Plan to take a course on risk assessment or disaster planning.
On Friday, July 19th the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) and Fresh Arts will host an introductory workshop and a symposium on emergency preparedness for the arts.
TX-CERA instructors will conduct the workshop with a hands-on approach and will address participants’ questions.
The symposium will focus on developing and maintaining an emergency plan.
Workshop and symposium are part of a 2-day conference that covers a vast array of topics of interest for artists: from marketing and self-promotion, to legal resources and copyrights. Registration is $150 and closes on Sunday, July 14.
Workshop and symposium are free and open to the public.
Resources Expo: Friday, July 19th, noon-2pm Free and open to the public. The expo will have several resources available to artists and creative entrepreneurs at tables. The Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is sponsoring the expo and facilitating the following resources:
TX-CERA (Texas Cultural Emergency Response Alliance) teach artists how to recover their assets after a flood
Performing Arts Readiness will provide sample documents to help entrepreneurs develop a plan to endure their safety in case of emergencies large and small
HAA will provide Hurricane Preparedness Guides specific to artists and arts organizations, as well as the CERF+ Studio Safety Guide
Symposium: Friday, July 19th, 2pm-5pm Free and open to the public; designed for those who have an emergency plan and want to expand on their preparedness knowledge.
Emergency Preparedness Consultant Ellen Korpar will speak about readiness of performing arts organizations for emergencies in Houston. Building upon this report, former fire chief and emergency management expert Gary Friedel will facilitate a tabletop recovery exercise which will group TX-CERA experts and additional attendees in cross-network groups to develop a response framework and strategy in a real-world scenario.
The Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) offers a tool to guide responders to an emergency that affects our cultural heritage. In case of an emergency, the most important action is to stabilize the artifacts to avoid further damage until they could be properly treated by a conservator.
A very useful tool to guide the first responders is the FAIC’s Emergency Response & Salvage Wheel. The two-sided-wheel lists on one side the steps of the emergency response, on the other side the appropriate action to stabilize 9 types of artifacts.
When disaster strikes, fortunately for our communities first responders and volunteers come to the rescue. As we know from many tragic examples of great heroism and ultimate sacrifice, unfortunately first responders and volunteers are often not sufficiently protected and during an emergency put the safety of their community first, over their own health and safety.
Before responding to an emergency, think about Personal Protective Equipment that will protect you as you are generously helping your community.
Regarding tight fitting air-purifying respirators, necessary in case of volatile chemicals such as organic solvents, please be aware that you have to undergo a medical check up and an annual respirator fit test to ascertain that using the respirator will not tax your heart and respiratory system and that you are trained to wearing it correctly. A Conservator’s Guide to Respiratory Protection by Craig E. Colton offers an exhaustive explanation:
Two important websites to guide you in understanding how to prevent infestations or control and eliminate pests once they’ve unintentionally entered your collection.
The MuseumPests Working Group was formed by collection managers, conservators, entomologists and other professionals for the implementation of integrated pest management in museums, libraries, archives, and other collection-holding institutions: https://museumpests.net/
2. What’s Eating Your Collection is a website by the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery dedicated to integrated pest management with guidance to its implementation and to the identification of the insects that you may find with recommendations in case you need to take action. http://www.whatseatingyourcollection.com/
(Note: this website requires Flash)
The Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC) is offering a series of webinars through its Connecting to Collection Care program.
On July 9, 2 – 3:30 pm (EDT) the topic will be temperature and humidity control through heating, ventilation and air conditioning. If you are considering upgrading your system or would like to gain a better understanding of the parameters you can modify to optimize your existing system, follow the link for additional information and to register:
Discussion will include an introduction to updates in the 2019 American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Handbook – Applications, Chapter 24: Museums, Galleries, Archives, and Libraries.