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Subject: Mummy


From: Robert Entwistle <bobbyent>
Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2000
Ms Applebaum advised Mr Madani not to use chemical methods if he
needed to fumigate a mummy. Chemical methods, she said would react
with the tissue of the mummy.

As far as I know most insecticides are manufactured to have an
effect on the life processes of insects. They would have little if
any effect on the dead tissue of the mummy.

Freezing is a safe method for fumigating material but unfortunately
it has no residual effect and as soon as the object is removed from
the freezer it is prone to attack.

I have done fumigation tests in the past on natural history material
using methyl bromide and carbon dioxide. The former worked well with
no deterioration or lingering odour as has been reported. Carbon
dioxide was less successful as the concentration of the gas has to
be very high for it to be effective.

Chemical fumigation using insecticides is going out of fashion, but
many museums have used it in the past for material such as mummies.
The mummy tissue thus treated has not deteriorated and as far as I
know, and is still available for research.

If non chemical methods of pest control are adopted the material
must be frequently checked for pests. If an infestation does occur
in this material it may proceed unchecked.

One of the reasons that natural history and organic material has
survived intact in museum to this day is because it was treated with
insecticides. Sometimes it was over treated, (for instance many
herbarium sheets treated with large amounts of mercury), but it has
survived. I do not think we should be too quick to dismiss the work
of our predecessors. How much material will survive the next hundred
years if conservators and curators use non chemical methods and are
unable through lack of staff, or pressure of work etc, to regularly
inspect their collections? This is perhaps a rather pessimistic
question but one I've often pondered.

Bob Entwistle,
Chair of the Natural Sciences Conservation Group, UK

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:29
                 Distributed: Monday, November 20, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-14-29-005
Received on Wednesday, 15 November, 2000

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