JAIC , Volume 39, Number 1, Article 7 (pp. to )
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC , Volume 39, Number 1, Article 7 (pp. to )




The author would like to thank the Detroit Historical Museum for the opportunity to work on the mold response project; the Detroit Historical Society, especially Pam Shoemaker; and Robert E. O'Connell III, formerly of Quantum International Adjusters Ltd., now principal of O'Connell International Arts Inc., for their assistance during the project. Thank you to the Detroit Historical Museum staff, particularly Vicky Kruckeberg, curator of museum programs, Cynthia Young, social history curator, Patience Nauta, registrar; Marvin Barkley, Collection Resource Center Building engineer; and Thomas Pado, former Historic Fort Wayne maintenance supervisor, for their support.

Gratitude for a Mold Response Project Crew extraordinaire. Special thanks to Hanne Nielsen, project assistant manager; Barbara O. Roberts, hazard mitigation contract conservator; and Jane K. Hutchins, textile contract conservator and mentor.

Thanks to colleagues Steven Weintraub for his environmental consultation, Monona Rossol for her invaluable information on molds and mold remediation, Julie Reilly for her consultation on handling the cellulose nitrate materials, Mary-Lou Florian for her concern for indoor air sampling, and Julia Fenn for information on a cellulose nitrate deterioration indicator.




Each set of samples is listed in descending order of frequency of detection. The labels I and II indicate the presence of different types of the same genus (Wireman 1995).

Sample Number Object Mold Identification 
Moran table Penicillium species I 
  Chaetomonium species 
Melcher chest Penicillium species I 
  Dimorphic Yeast I 
Indian basket Penicillium species I 
  Dimorphic Yeast II 
Rasch uniform Cladosporium species 
  Penicillium species I 
  Penicillium species II 

Sample Set Two Location Mold Identification 
10 ft. wall furniture—east Aspergillus species I 
  Penicillium species I 
  Aspergillus niger 
15 ft. wall furniture—west Penicillium species I 
  Penicillium species II 
  Chaetomium species 
10 ft. wall textiles—east Penicillium species I 
  Chaetomium species 
10 ft. wall textiles—wast Penicillium species I 
  Aspergillus species II 
Duct—Textile storage Penicillium species I 
  Penicillium species II 
Duct—furniture storage Penicillium species I 
  Penicillium species II 
  Chaetomium species 
Roof—furniture storage Penicillium species II 
  Aspergillus niger 
Roof—textile storage Chaetomium species 

Source: Biological Research Solutions Inc. Biological Sample Analysis, September 13, 19, 1995.




Characterization of most fungi or molds:

  1. They have no chlorophyll. They cannot manufacture their own organic food. They live on the remains of other plants or animals, as saprophytes.
  2. The growing, food-getting part of a fungus is made up of long, hollow, branched cells, which in aggregate are called mycelium.
  3. Fungi reproduce by means of spores.

These three characteristics are the only ones that nearly all fungi have in common. Not all of them have all three of these characteristics. For example, yeasts are fungi but do not form mycelium; some fungi live on living plants or animals, as parasites.

The mycelium manufactures a variety of enzymes and a number of simple and complex organic acids. These enzymes and acids break down the substrate upon which it is growing, digests the food, and then eats. The microbes also emit volatile organic compounds (Rossol 1996). Museum collections provide an ideal food source for fungi. Penicillium, for example, can subsist on cloth, leather, paper, wood, tree bark, cork, ink, paper-based boxes, wax, glue, paint, hair and wool, and thousands of other common products.

Fungi will grow at a relative humidity of 70% or greater. There are instances of fungi growing in the 60–70% relative humidity range. At temperatures of 70�–90�F, fungi growth is accelerated. Under these favorable conditions, including a food source, one mold spore can germinate and produce a tangle of mycelium of visible size within 24 hours. A new side branch can grow every 30 to 40 minutes. In less than a week this mycelium can produce hundreds of millions of spores.

Mold spores are everywhere. The spores remain dormant until conditions conducive to their germination occur. The spores are liberated and disseminated in air. They can travel a great distance, with a wide distribution. It is not difficult to see how quickly an active mold outbreak can occur. Appropriate environmental control and monitoring and vigilant housekeeping are the only defense for a museum staff and a museum collection (Christensen 1951; Nyberg 1998).


1.. 13 people � 5 hours/day = 65 hours/day � 5 work days/week = 325 hours/week � 4 weeks/month = 1,300 artifact hours/month. 25,500 artifact work hours divided by 1,300 artifact work hours/month = 19.6 months.


Beaulieu, H.1998. Personal communication. Industrial Hygiene Resources, Garden City, Idaho.

Christensen, C.1951. The molds and man: An introduction to the fungi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Dicus, D.1997. Interim report for Detroit Historical Museum. Boise, Idaho.

Fenn, J.1995. The cellulose nitrate time bomb: Using sulphonephthalein indicators to evaluate storage strategies. From marble to chocolate: The conservation of modern sculpture. Proceedings of the Tate Gallery Conference, September 18–20, 1995. London: Archetype Publications. 87–92.

Florian, M.1998. Personal communication. Museum Collections Conservation Science, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Hutchins, J.1995. Emergency response assessment report for Detroit Historical Museum. Sooke, British Columbia, Canada.

Keene, S.1996. Managing conservation in museums. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Marcil, S.1997. The CMN Aylmer building project. Part 3, The human element. CAC abstracts, 23d Annual Conference, Canadian Association for Conservation, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property. 17–18.

Nyberg, S.1998. Invasion of the giant mold spore.Atlanta: Solinet.

Price, L.1994. Mold: Managing a mold invasion: Guidelines for disaster response. Technical series I. Philadelphia: Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

Reilly, J.1991. Celluloid objects: Their chemistry and preservation. Journal of the American Institute for Conservation30: 145–62.

Reilly, J.1997. Personal communication. Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, Omaha, Neb.

Rice, D.1998. Personal communication. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.

Roberts, B.1995. Emergency response assessment report for the Detroit Historical Museum. Norfolk, Conn.

Rossol, M.1996. Molds and fungi = solvents. Acts Facts10(3):4.

Rossol, M.1998. Personal communication. Arts, Crafts, & Theater Safety, New York, N.Y.

Rossol, M.2000. Personal communication. Arts, Crafts, & Theater Safety, New York, N.Y.

Strang, T., and J.Dawson. 1991. Controlling museum fungal problems. Technical bulletin 12. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute.

Tsai, S., C.Yang, P.Moffett, and A.Puccetti. 1999. Comparative studies of collection efficiency of airborne fungal matter using Andersen single-stage sampler and Air-O-Cell cassette. In Bioaerosols, fungi and mycotoxins: Health effects, assessment, prevention, and control, ed. E.Johanning. Albany, N.Y.: Eastern New York Occupational and Environmental Health Center. 457–64.

Weintraub, S.1996. Mechanicals system report for the Detroit Historical Museum. Art Preservation Services, New York.

Weintraub, S.1997. Mechanicals system report for the Detroit Historical Museum. Art Preservation Services, New York.

Williams, S.1994. The diphenylamine spot test for cellulose nitrate in museum objects. CCI Notes17, (2):1–2.

Wireman, J.1995. Biological sample analysis for the Detroit Historical Museum. Biological Research Solutions Inc., Detroit.


Bales, E., and W.Rose, eds. 1992. Bugs, mold and rot: A workshop on residential moisture problems, health effects, building damage, and moisture control. Proceedings of the Moisture Control Workshop, May 20–21, 1991. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Building Sciences.

Florian, M.1997. Heritage eaters: Insects and fungi in heritage collections.London: James and James (Science Publishers) Ltd..

Grattan, D., ed. 1993. Saving the twentieth century: The conservation of modern materials. Proceedings of a Conference, Symposium '91 – Saving the Twentieth Century, September 15–20, 1991. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute.

Johanning, E., and C. Yang, eds. 1995. Fungi and bacteria in indoor air environments: Health effects, detection and remediation. Proceedings of the International Conference, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Lathan, N.Y.: Eastern New York Occupational Health Program.

Mainville, C., M.Pinard, L.Gagnon, R.Kelly, A.Beaudet. 1999. Learning from Stachybotrys chartarum: How to find hidden mold in buildings. In Bioaerosols, fungi and mycotoxins: Health effects, assessment, prevention and control, ed. E.Johanning. Albany, N.Y.: Eastern New York Occupational and Environmental Health Center.611–15.

Rose, W., and A.TenWolde. 1993. Bugs, mold & rot II: A workshop on control of humidity for health, artifacts, and buildings. Proceedings of the Moisture Control Workshop, November 16–17, 1993. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Building Sciences..

Rossol, M.1994. Book mold data sheet. Acts Facts8(10):3.


Analytical work

Biological Research Solutions Inc.

2727 Second Ave.

Detroit, Mich. 48201

Boxes, interleaving papers

Gaylord Bros.

Box 4901

Syracuse, N.Y. 13221-4901

Ethafoam, 1/8 in. � 300 ft. roll sheeting 1 in. and 2 in. plank, can be cut to meet UPS shipping size specifications

Gladon Company, Inc.

178 W. Boden St.

Milwaukee, Wis. 53207

Oasis commercial portable dehumidifier, Model No. 5E822 with evaporator coil cleanable foam filter, automatic humidistat control, built-in condensate pump, automatic evaporator defrost

Grainger (many U.S. sites)

pH-neutral corrugated boxes

Light Impressions

439 Monroe Ave.

Rochester, N.Y. 14607

Polyethylene Ziploc bags, varied sizesAssociated Bag Company

P.O. Box 37750

Milwaukee, Wis. 53237

Polyester batting, boxes, pH-neutral tissue, and Tyvek

University Products

P. O. Box 101

Holyoke, Mass. 01041

Tyvek can be ordered through University Products to come directly from the manufacturer. 2,100 yd. � 60 in. rolls were ordered. For a $50 slitting fee, the manufacturer will slit a specific amount of yardage. For example, it was possible to slit 500 yards, thus getting 1,000 yards of 30 in. and 1,600 yards of 60 in.

Polypropylene storage boxes

Sterilite Corp.

Townsend, Mass. 01469

Polystyrene hangers

All-In-One Suppliers, Inc.

233 West 35th St.

New York, N.Y. 10001

Psychrodyne psychrometer and recording hygrothermograph

Cole Parma Instrument Co.

625 E. Bunker Ct.

Vernon Hills, Ill. 60061

Respirators, organic vapor filters, particulate prefilters, HEPA with nuisance level organic filter, irritant smoke test kit

Lab Safety Supply Inc.

P.O. Box 1368

Janesville, Wis. 53547-1368

Nilfisk Vacuum Cleaner GS 80 with HEPA filter, variable speed control transformer, and microaccessories

Nilfisk of America Inc.

300 Technology Dr.

Malvern, Pa. 19355

Slide film and processing

Seattle Film Works

1260 16th Ave. W.

Seattle, Wash. 98119


DIANA HOBART DICUS graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an M.S. in textile history and clothing and from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee with a Museum Studies Certificate. She received a Conservation Certificate with distinction from the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, interned in the Conservation Organics Section of the British Museum, and was an Andrew Mellon Ethnographic Fellow at the Bishop Museum of Anthropology and Natural History in Honolulu. She has worked as an objects conservator at the Bishop Museum, a Fellow in the Ethnographic Laboratory at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, and a contract conservator with the Detroit Historical Museum. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute of Conservation (AIC). Currently she works in private practice in Boise, Idaho, specializing in ethnographic, social history, and natural history objects and in preventive conservation. Address: 1415 Camel Back Lane, #205, Boise, Idaho 83702