November 15, 2014     
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

 Asset Security, UV and Pests, Oh My! 

In This Issue
Museum Housekeeping Tools
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Submissions and Comments
Asset Security
Holiday Decorating and Potential Damage
UV Detecting Beads
2015 Course Schedule
Upcoming Classes

Museum Housekeeping Tools: HEPA Vacuums


The vacuum cleaner you use in your collections area and for cleaning your collections is not the same one you use to clean the carpets in your home or office. Cleaning collections and collection areas requires a more specialized vacuum--one with variable suction and a HEPA filter to trap dust and particulates and not allow them to be expelled back out into the air.


Lil Red HEPA Vacuum

Weighing less than 6 pounds, the Lil Red is easy to lift and operate. With its 3 stage HEPA filtration, the Lil Red HEPA Vacuum captures and removes fine particles such as dust and pet dander quickly and efficiently. The variable speed motor allows the vacuum to adapt to any cleaning situation and be used with micro tools without harming the motor. Because of its light weight and convenient handle, vacuuming stairs, shelves and other hard to reach surfaces is easy. Accessories include two floor utensils, crevice tool, round dust brush, upholstery utensil and adjustable wand.


Features: 120V, 1200 Watt; Economical; Variable speed control; Full Bag Indicator Light; 2 Quart HEPA Filter; 3 stage filtration; Retractable power cord; 1 Year Limited Warranty


HCTV Vacuum w/5 gallon HEPA filter

This large vacuum is a cost effective solution designed for the user who is working with high volumes of fine dry particle debris such as toner, soot or dry chemicals. A foot pedal makes it easy to clean material while sitting at a table or lab bench. Its rolling base doubles as a tray for storing the vacuum's accessories. With a five-gallon capacity, this vacuum offers two levels of filtration: Toner and dust filter bucket and HEPA filter bucket with 5 gallon capacity. A great vacuum for general exhibit and storage room cleaning. Suction is stronger than normally desired for cleaning collections. It comes with an extra-long flexible stretch hose, increasing your reach.


Features: Convenient, freewheeling, detachable roller base; large capacity, disposable "NO MESS" filter or True 5-Gallon HEPA filter; 10 foot crush proof hose, 16 inch flexible wand, crevice tool, and crevice tool brush.


Express Vac with HEPA cartridge filter

This small vacuum is one of the lightest portable vacuums available, has a top handle, and is easy to operate. Low suction makes this vacuum ideal for collection cleaning. The available HEPA filter is capable of 99.97% efficiency at filtering very fine dust, color toner, allergens, mold spores, and other ultra fine particulates.


Features: an ESD safe hose, ESD safe round dust brush, ESD safe gooseneck, ESD safe crevice tool and power cord. The complete system is grounded from the tip of the hose through the end of the power cord.


Omega Vac Supreme with HEPA filter

The Omega Series Clean Room vacuums come standard with a true HEPA cartridge filter (or optional ULPA cartridge filter). The HEPA filters are designed to capture fumes, atmospheric dust, all color toner and other ultra-fine particulats. Omega Vac Supreme, weighing 12 lb., has a shoulder strap and lid storage area for accessories. The vacuum meets UL and CSA certified safety standards. Great vacuum for general exhibit and storage room cleaning. Suction is stronger than normally desired for cleaning collections.


Features: 10' ESD safe hose, 16" ESD safe rubber flexible gooseneck, HEPA exhaust filter and power cord; standard non-ESD safe 5.5" utility nozzle.


When cleaning minute or dangerous particles it is very important to change out the filters when they become too full. New models have a RED LED Indicator light on the rear panel of the vacuum that will illuminate once the filter is reaching full capacity to aid with this. When the RED LED indicator shows continuous RED, it is time to replace your filter.


Top: Omega Vac Supreme  

Center left: Lil Red HEPA Vacuum  

Center right: HCTV Vaccum  

Bottom: Express Vac with HEPA Cartridge filter  


Manufacturer's Website 

Regional Workshops 


Where you can find some of our instructors this year:

Gawain Weaver
Standford University Libraries, Cecil H. Green Library
Karin Hostetter
National Association for Interpretation, Denver, CO 
  • Professional Development Ascends to New Heights, November 18, 2014 (co-presenting with Peggy Schaller)

Steve Layne 

International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, Orlando, FL   
  • Your Personal Safety, Monday, November 17, 2014, 9:00 - 10:15 a.m.
  • Emergency Operations Planning, Monday, November 17, 2014, 10:30 - 11:45 a.m. 

Peggy Schaller

National Association for Interpretation, Denver, CO 
  • Professional Development Ascends to New Heights, November 18, 2014 (co-presenting with Karin Hostetter)

Conferences and Meetings


New England Association of Museums Annual Meeting

November 19-21, 2014, Cambridge, MA


National Association of Interpretation Annual Meeting

November 18-22, 2014, Denver, CO  


California Museums Association

San Diego, CA

February 18-20, 2015


Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums

Building Museums Symposium

Boston, MA

March 22-24, 2015


Colorado- Wyoming Association of Museums

Craig, CO

April 16-18, 2015


Association of Academic Museums and Galleries

Atlanta, GA
April 24-26, 2015


American Alliance of Museums

Atlanta, GA

April 26-29, 2015


Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

Gainesville, FL

May 17-23, 2015


Association of Midwest Museums Conference

Cincinnati, OH

July 19-22, 2015


Society of American Archivists

Cleveland, OH

August 16-22, 2015.


American Association for State and Local History

Louisville, KY
September 16-19, 2015


Mountain-Plains Museums Association

Wichita, KS

September 27 - October 1, 2015


Southeastern Museums Conference

Jacksonville, FL

October 12 - 14, 2015


Western Museums Association

San Jose, CA

October 24-27, 2015.


New England Museum Association

Portland, ME

November 4-6, 2015

Submissions and Comments


How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  

If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to  


We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 


Have a comment or suggestion?   


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About Us

Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
End of Year Course Sale

Buy one or more 2015 courses before December 31, 2015 and received 10% off the regular price!

Visit our website at for more information and to sign up.

Asset Security

Bill Anderson, Art Guard


I've seen firsthand a lack of consensus between security and conservation over the protection of assets from theft or tampering, especially in larger institutions. It is so dramatic in some cases that security personnel refuse to have conservators present in a discussion of security measures until they have mounted a compelling argument. This balkanization is somewhat understandable since the mandate to aggressively protect art and objects so often asks for or imposes compromises in their handling and treatment. And just as understandable is the resistance to compromise on the part of curators and conservators when preservation of art and cultural objects is involved. In smaller institutions this quagmire is often a burden borne by the same person.


The desire to offer an intimacy with the art or object on the part of those tasked with creating exhibitions is reinforced by increasingly more sophisticated audiences who seek authenticity in setting, placement, and presentation. This is the very thing that keeps security personnel awake at night and in constant pursuit of a workable balance.


Nighttime perimeter or intrusion security, at one time the only means of 24-hour supervision, is still basically a door/window sensor system with motion detection thrown in for good measure. But all must be turned off during operating hours to allow for daily activity in any institution, large or small, frequently leaving guards as the only thing between vulnerable objects and the front door.


Object specific security emerged in the last several years as a solution that bolstered the security side of the equation. It has solved the dilemma of alarming individual objects in the absence of any other means of supervision, including an inattentive guard or someone monitoring CCTV monitors. And it has arrived at an interesting crossroads in art and asset protection where a confluence of factors occurred. While art security consultants would always like to see layered security approaches to whatever extent funding allows, technologies have appeared recently that allow greater specificity, and with that insurers see a mandate to minimize their risk. So protection has taken a turn, but the parties within the institution are not always in agreement, particularly with respect to compromising the fabric of an artifact.


The standard in object specific protection is a motion or vibration sensor, but its application to a work is problematic in several ways. The means of attachment can be a challenge since its size, generally that of a large book of matches, has to involve a large surface area for the application of adhesives. A limited solution has been to place the sensor in a plastic bag and affix the bag to the work, sometimes pinning it to a wooden frame. Otherwise the sensor must be adhered to the surface of the work, which brings into question not only the adhesive, but the attachment of batteries (which can conceivably leak) to the work. Another factor is cost of the system, most often RFID, which both security and conservation can object to.


Art Guard introduced a sensor system this year that offers a solution for any size institution, but is particularly appealing to smaller facilities that lack the ability to install layers of protection. The MAP, which stands for Magnetic Asset Protection, sensor detects the movement of a rare-earth magnet, often as tiny as a drop of water. The sensor itself is generally the size of a standard motion sensor. What makes the MAP system primarily so appealing to conservation is the fact that what touches the work is not the sensor but the magnet. Whereas the sensor is attached discreetly to (or in) the wall behind a hanging piece and under the supporting surface of a seated object, the magnet is what is affixed to the object, either inside or underneath, and easily hidden from view. The MAP sensor then detects the magnet's movement and triggers an alert to a control panel and produces a customized response, from a local alarm to a cell phone text to notification to an offsite monitoring service. Rare earth, or Neodymium, magnets are basically inert. Normally nickel coated, they are also available with an epoxy covering. A second advantage is that the magnets are available in all shapes and sizes, so it is unlikely that a magnet is not available to satisfy any configuration problem. Thirdly, because of the size of the magnets, almost anything can be protected, from something as large as a painting to something as small as an individual piece of jewelry. Attachment of the tiny magnet becomes less of an issue regardless of the type of artifact. Museum wax is the most common means of attachment, but a variety of pH neutral tapes are available to address the safety of the object. The flexibility of the magnets can extend protection to objects on an individual basis where it was previously inconceivable. For instance, a disk-shaped magnet with a hole can be attached to a costume or piece of fabric with a single cotton thread. A hanging tapestry presents an opportunity to employ magnetism for attachment by placing two flat magnets in opposition to each other on either side of the fabric. Rag board can even be placed between the fabric and the magnet without diminishing the effect. In many cases, because the MAP sensor can also detect the naturally occurring magnetism in ferrous metal, a magnet may not even be needed. The sensor is simply paired with the object.


Another advantage of the MAP sensor is its ability to sense several magnets simultaneously, so, for instance, a grouping of small objects, such as figurines or ornaments, can be protected by a single sensor placed underneath a table, desk or plinth. This makes an already affordable system more appealing.


As anyone in asset security will acknowledge, everything is vulnerable to theft. But hopefully technologies like MAP will continue to offer solutions that bridge the gap between the fear of loss and the devotion to giving the viewer an authentic experience.


To learn more about the MAP (Magnetic Asset Protection) system visit the Art Guard website at  

Holiday Decorating and Potential Damage

By Helen Alten


Real Greenery

"We bring in boxwood garlands and a tree for our holiday event," wrote a student in my recent pest management class. As our discussion grew, more and more students admitted using greenery and real food in holiday decorating.


According to North Carolina State University's Cooperative Extension (, real Christmas trees may have "an unwanted hitchhiker." Several types of insects spend the winter in conifers, which provide a well-protected home for cold winter months. When brought indoors, the insects think spring has arrived, becoming active and reproducing inside the building. Pests include Cinara aphids, spider mites, and praying mantis. These pests occur in one out of 100,000 trees, becoming more common if the temperature was warm when the trees were cut.


Before setting a real tree up in a museum, set it up in another warm space to ensure there are no unwanted pests coming in with the tree. The Cooperative Extension suggests that you can prevent problems if you:

  • Shake the tree to remove pollen, dust, leaves and dead needles.
  • Wash the tree with water from a garden hose and let it dry before bringing it inside. Post-harvest pests will fall out of the tree.
  • Vacuum pests up with a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner and immediately dispose of the bag outside.
  • If the tree produces too many insects, remove it immediately from the building.
  • Don't smash the insects. This creates purple and red stains.
  • Don't use aerosol home insecticides, which are flammable.

Premixed insecticidal soaps may help, but flammability and potential for damaging fumes are unknown. Chemicals might be hazards to kids and elderly.


There are other problems with real greenery. They stain surfaces, ooze, dry out and become a fire hazard, shed and create debris (a cleaning nightmare), and require water, which also can stain, attract pests and result in mold. Water spills may damage collection items nearby.


Artificial Trees

Many museums have decorated with fake trees and greenery.


"I am starting to shy away from fake trees, the plastic breaks down and starts to emit an odor," stated another student.


Yes, plastic ages and deteriorates. You could monitor your artificial greenery and replace any that start to smell or feel sticky. Paper and silk foliage might be an acceptable alternative. Of course, paper is a fire accelerant and may require treatment with a fire retardant.



In 2004, the New York Public library stopped displaying wreaths on their outdoor lions because of the damage the decorations caused to the sculpture, including staining. This year, ten years later, the wreaths will return, but now considerations have been made to keep them from harming the stone lions.


"The artificial Norwood Green Spruce wreaths -which weigh 150 pounds each and have five feet openings - are made without any metal (which can corrode and damage the lions) and with a special Marine-grade plywood, which does not soak in water, avoiding potential water damage to the marble. The wreaths will also be treated with a non-staining weather sealant. The wreaths will feature red bows made of high-quality, non-staining fabric, and no lights." -New York Public Library Press Release (    


Always lay a barrier between greenery (real or fake) and the historic fireplace or furniture. This barrier could be a layer of polyethylene foam or thick cotton fabric.


"Our tree is decorated with period ornaments - which means food." This student removed the meat from walnuts to reduce the threat of pest attraction. "I used walnuts, removed the meat, freezer treated, and painted with matte clear Krylon." The shell alone is as attractive as dried wood, so probably poses little risk of pest infestation.


Real food might be replaced with an excellent fake. Realistic greenery, fruit, even popcorn strands are available to purchase. Cookies and other treats might be created from Fimo or Sculpey clays.


Considerations for decorations:

  • Will it rot? Best to remove anything that will rot and replace it with an artificial alternative.
  • Will it stain? Check fabrics and paper to see if they rub off color or run when wet. Make sure plastic decorations don't smell or feel sticky. Metal can corrode and stain, so make sure there is a barrier between metal and historic furniture.
  • Is it a fire hazard? Can it be treated with a retardant without causing health problems or creating damaging fumes? All dry organic materials - dried plants, paper, and fabric - can be a fire accelerant.
  • Will it hold water on the surface? This results in stains, mold and deterioration.
  • Is it a pest attractant? Protein materials - especially porcupine quills and feathers - are extremely popular with our insect friends. Best to avoid using them if you can.
  • Will it emit damaging fumes? A barrier can help stop this problem. But if possible, test materials for fumes they might emit using acid-detection strips or a metal coupon (Oddy Test) test.

Holidays are happy times that make our visitors feel good. Make sure that the holidays don't cause us more work, headaches, and expense for you by taking a few precautions before decorating. Ideally, keep the real trees and food for outdoor decorating, unless you are decorating sculptures. Use good quality fakes for indoor decorating. Outdoor sculptures require more thought and care so that decorations don't harm them.


Sources of Artificial Decorations:



Plastic Walnuts


Popcorn Garland


Cedar Garlands


Special thanks to the students of MS210: Integrated Pest Management online course, who inspired me with a stimulating course discussion. In particular, thanks to Janie Kennedy, Kate Hanson Plass and Teri Long.

UV Detecting Beads: An inexpensive way to test for Ultraviolet (UV) light in your museum


These small plastic beads contain a pigment that is activated and changes color with exposure to ultraviolet light--sunlight or unfiltered florescent lighting. The pigments are very sensitive and will begin to change at the lowest levels of UV exposure. They come in a variety of colors including blue, orange, purple, red and yellow. When removed from UV light these beads will change back to their normal off-white coloration and remain that color until exposed again to UV light. These beads are reusable and can change back and forth between colored and off-white up to 50,000 times.


What are they good for in the museum?


Place a few beads in the corner of your exhibit cases to check the UV level in your galleries. They can also be placed on windowsills to check the continued efficacy of UV filtering materials. Place them in storage to see what levels of UV may be affecting your stored items when the lights are on and for checking UV filtering on florescent lighting. You can use the individual beads or a small UV detector that contains beads and a color chart to compare the amount of UV present in the testing location--the darker the beads appear compared to the color chart, the more UV is present.


Secondly, you can use them in your education programs to teach about ultraviolet light and how it affects various parts of our world. Have children make them into bracelets and then go outside and see the reaction happen and discuss it with them. Test sunglasses for their effectiveness at blocking UV light and test sunscreen by covering some of the beads with the sunscreen and leaving some without and see what happens. See how long the sunscreen will protect by leaving the beads out in the sunlight until the coated ones start to turn as well keeping watch on the time. Other experiments are possible; all you need is your imagination!


UV Detector:  

UV Detecting Beads:  


2015 Course Schedule


MS 008: Buy In: Getting All of Staff to Support Preservation January 18 to 23, 2015

MS 103: The Basics of Museums Registration January 5 to 30, 2015

MS 107: Introduction to Museum Security January 5 to 30, 2015

MS 213: Museum Artifacts: How they were made and how they deteriorate January 5 to February 13, 2015

MS 235: Scripting the Exhibition January 5 to 30, 2015

MS 242: Museum Microclimates January 5 to 30, 2015



MS 002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared? February 16 to 20, 2015         

MS 208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects February 2 to 27, 2015

MS 214: Collections Management Databases February 2 to 27, 2015

MS 227: Care of Paintings February 2 to March 13, 2015

MS 236: Education in Museums February 2 to 27, 2015

MS 238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts February 2 to March 13, 2015

MS 254: Retail Store Management for Small Museums February 2 to 27, 2015  

MS 302: Fundraising and Grant Writing February 2 to 27, 2015



MS 010: Condition Assessments March 16 to 20, 2015

MS 108: Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs March 2 to 27, 2015

MS 205/206 Disaster Plan Research and Writing March 2 to April 24, 2015  

MS 215: Care of Archaeological Artifacts from the Field to the Lab March 2 to 27, 2015

MS 243: Making Museum Quality Mannequins March 2 to April 10, 2015

MS 303: Found in the Collection March 2 to April 3, 2015



MS 001: The Problem with Plastics April 13 to 17, 2015

MS 104: An Introduction to Collections Preservation April 6 to May 1, 2015

MS 106: Exhibit Fundamentals: Ideas to Installation April 6 to May 15, 2015

MS 224: Care of Leather and Skin Materials April 6 to May 15, 2015

MS237: Formative Evaluations for Exhibits and Public Programs April 6 to May 1, 2015



MS 011: Gallery Guides May 4 to 15, 2015

MS 109: Museum Management May 4 to June 5, 2015

MS 202: Museum Storage Facilities and Furniture May 4 to 29, 2015

MS 211: Preservation Environments May 4 to 29, 2015

MS 212: Care of Textiles May 4 to 29, 2015

MS 226: Care of Furniture May 4 to 29, 2015



MS 222: Care of Photographs June 22 to August 14, 2015



MS 207: Cataloging Your Collection July 6 to 31, 2015

MS 235: Scripting the Exhibition: Labels and Interpretive Panels July 6 to 31, 2015



MS 204: Materials for Storage and Display August 3 to 28, 2015

MS 236: Education in Museums August 3 to 28, 2015

MS 244: Traveling Exhibits August 3 to 28, 2015                                  



MS 010: Condition Assessments September 14 to 18, 2015

MS 217: Museum Cleaning Basics September 7 to October 16, 2015

MS 227: Care of Paintings September 7 to October 16, 2015



MS 001: The Problem with Plastics October 19 to 23, 2015

MS 014: Education Collections October 26 to 30, 2015

MS 104: An Introduction to Collections Preservation October 5 to 30, 2015

MS 238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts October 5 to November 13, 2015

MS 106: Exhibit Fundamentals: Ideas to Installation October 5 to November 13, 2015

MS 109: Museum Management October 5 to November 6, 2015



MS 007: The Mission Statement: Is it really that important? November 9 to 13, 2015

MS 211: Preservation Environments November 2 to 30, 2015

MS 212: Care of Textiles November 2 to 30, 2015

MS 218: Collection Inventories November 2 to 30, 2015

MS 253: Disaster Recovery November 2 to 30, 2015

MS 259: The Volunteer Handbook November 2 to December 11, 2015

Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager