As part of a new feature our Collections Officer, Will Sims, will be talking about the jobs he carries out in order to protect the artefacts in the Museum. This week, mould!
Is it mold or mould? I don't think anybody really knows.
One thing I do know is that mould can be seriously damaging to museum artefacts. There can be many reasons why mould may occur on an artefact but most often it occurs because the item has been stored in an environment where the relative humidity and temperature are unsuitable, or the item has previously been submerged in water and has not properly dried out. In a museum we work hard to ensure these circumstances do not occur, we have equipment to allow us to monitor environmental conditions, so any mould detected on museum artefacts was probably present in a dormant form when it entered the Museum.
In my role as Collections Officer here at SWMM I take care of artefacts, carrying out any basic conservation work. When I am confronted with mould I choose to use a solution of industrial methylated spirits, the standard composition of this being 70% ethyl alcohol to 30% water, which is a weak acid designed to kill the mould spores but not damage the artefact itself.
First, I will take the necessary safety precautions. I wear an FFP3 to ensure that i don't ensure any of the hazardous mould spores and i wear nitrile gloves to protect my hands. I will then brush down the item to remove the visible mould spores, this brush must then be disposed of straight away to avoid transferring mould spores to another item. I will then use 100% pure cotton wool to dab the I.M.S solution onto the product. This should remove all of the mould spores, but just to make sure I leave the item in a warm and sunny space (not easy in the Afan Valley!) to allow the UV light to kill any potential remaining spores. Just to make sure I will then use a museum vac to ensure nothing is left, before disposing of the vacuum bag to ensure nothing can be contaminated.
If you were simply to put the artefact back in an environment that was damp and poorly lit then you would almost certainly see mould grow on the artefact again. However, if the artefact is stored properly then the artefact would remain mould free for the rest of its time in the Museum.