Moldy Mammals in Milwaukee
Christine Del Re
In January 1999, working in consultation with Natural History Conservator Catharine Hawks, MPM embarked an ambitious plan to stabilize the mammal collection that suffered mold growth while in cold storage. The mammal mold abatement project accomplished the following: a complete inventory and MS Access database of the 675 specimens;a scientific and research value assessment by the Committee on Systematics Collections of the American Society of Mammalogists; freeze drying of the skin specimens (skin moisture contents were lowered from 14-29% to 2-4% during freeze drying) followed by careful and detailed HEPA vacuuming; 70% ethanol baths (soaked a minimum of 48 hours) for still roughed-out moldy skeletal material; complete decontamination of both the hide cooler and its refrigeration equipment and all ductwork by BMS-Cat (a firm that specializes in disaster clean-ups). Mold plates were run after the decontamination process to confirm that the clean-up had been successful; the floors and walls of the hide cooler were patched, repaired and sealed with epoxy paint. All phases of the mammal stabilization project, and the clean-up of the cooler were completed in August 2001. In addition to the decontamination and clean-up process, based on recommendations from Catharine Hawks, the temperature in the hide cooler was raised from 32F to 65F, resulting in a decrease in relative humidity from around 65-75% to 45% where it has remained stable for the last three years.