The Mold…RETURNS! (Mad Scientist edition)

Germination test of deaccessioned moldy material.

Offscreen, a spooky laugh is heard... 

Welcome back horror fans! ‘Tis another Halloween edition here on the blog, and try as we might, we just can’t get rid of our fiend friend, The Mold, now can we? Inasmuch as we try to avoid it, we also can’t quite help from falling in love with our fungal revenants. They’re so clever! And even beautiful, to some eyes.

Microbial growth has been haunting us since midsummer and it isn’t good manners to just keep calling our occasional visitor by a generic name when we could call it by its proper name, i.e. by its genus, or what we can identify further through the process of speciation. But must we be specific down to the species to know if it is a threat to our collections and our health? Not necessarily, but for our disaster preparedness, and safety programs, we have been investigating when and why we would wish to do so.

Meanwhile, back in the laboratory, we decided to run a tiny experiment under controlled conditions. Some time ago, we banished an object from the deep collections stores for fear it could contribute to a looming Blob-like takeover someday. But could this mad conservator prove that this lurker was in fact a viable threat? Armed with nothing but a sealed Petrie dish, a water mister, a sample from the object, the warmth of my computer’s drive, and time, I determined….


….that indeed, I could revive the dormant subject.

Please see portraits of our revivified sample, newly added to our Gallery of Horrors album on Flickr, (Mold XV-XX).

Gallery of Horrors: When Bad Things Happen to Good Archives

With the assistance of our brave and thorough Industrial Hygienist, Sophia Kapranos, we sent further samples off to our labs to get closer to a name for our Creature (or creatures). as seen in Laura Wahl’s post linked below. We shall be presenting further on the logistics, practicality, cost-effectiveness and wisdom of culturing and speciating mold strains for an upcoming seminar Control of Health and Safety Hazards in Museums and Collections Care next week. Please join us….if you dare…

(With apologies to Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley)

Related Resources

Conserving Archival Collections Suffering from Fungal Attack, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives

The Mold . . ., The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives 

Mold! Webinar, Connecting to Collections Online Community 

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