New ideas for the testing, documentation, and storage of objects previously treated with pesticides

Nancy Odegaard, Leslie Boyer, Melissa J. Huber, Lara Kaplan, Caroline Kunioka, Teresa Moreno, Cheryl Podsiki, Alyce Sadongei, David R. Smith, and Werner Zimmt

Abstract

Pesticide residues and chemicals from preservation efforts on museum collections have long been a silent health hazard for museum workers. In recent decades conservators have sought to improve the safety of objects and to protect the health of the people that work with them. Specifically, these efforts have included stopping the use of chemical pesticides in museums, the increased use of personal protective equipment, and the removal of treated objects from educational programs. Today, conservators, tribal communities and museum professionals are faced with a particularly urgent situation: sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony eligible for return under the 1990 NAGPRA law may be contaminated with poisonous residues. This paper will illustrate how standards for testing, documentation, and possible removal of residues are being developed to reduce the threat of physical harm these objects pose to people as a result of repatriation.

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