An investigation of treatments of active fungal infested outdoor wood sculptures

Patricia Houlihan and Jean Portell


In the process of working on a large outdoor sculpture disfigured with multiple fungal outgrowths, we learned that very little conservation literature addresses the problem of how to effectively arrest biological weathering of outdoor wood artifacts without compromising either the appearance or the physical integrity.

First it is important to determine the type and extent of microbiological attack. Some types of fungi destroy only the cellulosic components of wood whereas others destroy both cellulose and lignin. Some types of fungi severely damage only the outer areas of wood while others are more invasive.

We are finding that the scientists and industrial chemists who are working on similar problems for other purposes are evolving new experimental methods of treatment for wood because currently available methods are not adequate. We are investigating both traditional and experimental fungicides and the various methods of applying them.

This paper will focus on the examination and treatment of a large outdoor wood sculpture, and will bring in information about how other objects (totem poles, etc.) have been treated by other conservators. We will also report data provided by scientists and by other experts on how to delay the deterioration of carved wood in outdoor environments.