Termite Damage

Preservation Tip: Dealing With Insect Damage

By: Scott Gampfer, Associate Vice President for Collections and Preservation

Image 1: This collection of 1830s-era bound newspapers shows some signs of insect damage

Insects are attracted to materials containing cellulose. Paper-based collections (documents, books, newspapers) contain cellulose and need to be protected from insect attack. Storing collections in cool dry spaces is preferable because there is a link between higher temperature and relative humidity, and increased insect activity.

Years ago, the library received a donation of bound newspapers including this volume from the 1830s. One of the volumes exhibited evidence of insect damage on the outside front cover (see image 1 below). Portions of the decorative covering paper were abraded and the lower right-hand corner bore telltale insect holes. When the volume was opened, this is the sight that greeted the librarians (see image 2). It turns out that the volumes had been stored on shelving against a basement or garage wall and termites had been able to build a mud tube up to this volume.

Although this is an extreme example of what insects can do to collections, please be sure to store the things you want to preserve in a clean, dry, cool place and visually inspect them periodically to make sure they are safe.

Image 2: Suspicion confirmed! The culprit? House termites.

Posted in Archives and manuscripts, Behind the scenes, Press, Uncategorized.