The Mold . . .

Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

It Creeps! It Sticks! It Lurks! It Smells! It silently and terribly feasts on whatever is in its damp path! It dies . . . or does it? It may rise from the dormant state to live AGAIN!!! What is this all-powerful horror?

In what has become a joyously ghoulish tradition around here, we are proud to present this year's Horrid Hallowe'en Creature Feature, starring the terrible, creeping . . . MOLD. Well, it might be mold, or then again, maybe not. It might be alive, but maybe it is just dormant, or maybe its really quite dead, but can still hurt you. How do you know what it is? Is it black? Is it green? Is it purple, brown, or orangey-red?! This is a frequently asked question in our Collections Care Forum: whether a musty or "old" smell in their book or paper collections is a sign of mold, mildew, or foxing, how are they different, and most importantly, how can it be gotten under control or removed?  Happily, supplementing our Forum answer, more and more resources are now available online to help you identify mold in your collections.  While in the past, many of these have been written up in lengthy fact sheets, the web now allows us to share terrific images that characterize mold species typical to books and papers. Some of these sites show you how to safely use your senses and observations so that you may contact the right professional, or take steps to remediate the problem yourself - within proper safety guidelines.

In this slideshow, we present new additions to our Gallery of Horrors. We've taken the liberty of using the annoying movie franchise naming convention to name them in serial fashion, Mold I, II, etc. To see any of these in larger detail, simply click on the set to go through to the Flickr site, and do look for the mouseover notes and description - a director's commentary track, if you will.

In the related resources below, we point to some of our favorite sites for visual identification and learning more about safely dealing with mold in your collection. It is particularly thrilling that one is made possible through the auspices of the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.  Yes, that Stephen King. And he knows a thing or two about books and horror!

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