The moths are coming! This is not a statement that would invoke fear in the hearts of many, but it certainly raises the alarm for those in the museum world. Last August, Gables staff discovered that webbing clothes moths and possibly case-making clothes moths were eating away at the hangings on the bed in the Great Chamber. The hangings are modern reproductions of eighteenth-century bed hangings that help simulate the grandeur of the Turner family’s home during the mid-1700s.
Immediately, the Collections Care team took the hangings down, emptied the pillows and bed of their organic stuffing (feathers and cotton), and removed all other textiles from the room. Next, they began a weekly ceiling to floor cleaning of the room and the remaining objects within. They also set up and monitored traps for the moths.
In early September, staff members took the textiles to Historic New England’s Collections and Conservation Facility in Haverhill where they were treated in the “bubble” (check it out here). The “bubble” is an air-tight plastic enclosure in which carbon dioxide is pumped in and oxygen forced out in order to kill any living thing. The process takes about three weeks to complete. The “bubble” is available to rent for other museums and institutions through Historic New England.
After bringing the treated textiles back to The Gables, we placed them in quarantine for 90 days. Staff member Connie Barlow then carefully vacuumed them using a textile screen for additional protection. The bed and pillows were re-stuffed with special foam peanuts to deter further infestations. The team then replaced the hangings and textiles, restoring the Great Chamber to its glorious appearance. As one of the showpieces of the Great Chamber, the room felt oddly empty without them. We are glad they are back on display!
This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop