California Preservation Program

Helping preserve heritage collections

Mold

While one might assume that, given California ‘s mild climate, mold and mildew would not present much of a problem here. In fact, molds are remarkably robust organisms and can flourish virtually anywhere if the environmental conditions are conducive to their reproduction (specifically, warm moist conditions). The coastal areas of California come to mind, but mold can flourish even in very localized areas of high temperature and humidity. This means that virtually every library and archive in the state can expect at some time to face a mold problem.

The damage that mold causes to library and archive materials–not only paper but just about every organic material found in collections–can be severe. Molds excrete enzymes and acids that effectively digest paper or whatever material (the substrate) the mold lives and feeds on. In addition mold may produce pigments which stain the substrate; reducing this staining may be difficult or altogether impossible.

Mold and mildew pose not only a serious threat to collection materials, but can also create serious health risk for staff and users. Some of the documents listed below deal with this critical issue.

For more information on mold, see Conservation OnLine’s Mold page. For definitions of terms related to mold, see the following entries in Bookbinding and the Conservation of books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology by Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington

Mold
Mildew
Foxing
Fungi
Fungicide

 

Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)
Emergency Salvage of Moldy Books and Paper, Technical Leaflet, Emergency Management, Section 3.8 by Beth Patkus
For most libraries and archives, this is probably the single most useful document on the topic.
Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET)
Invasion of the Giant Mold Spore
This article is something of a classic.
National Park Service
Mold: Prevention of Growth in Museum Collections , Conserve O Gram 3/4, July 1993.
Hilary A. Kaplan
Mold: A Follow-up
This is a concise and extremely valuable overview of institutional response to a mold outbreak, focusing largely on health-safety issues.
Karen Motylewski
Non-Toxic Fumigation & Alternative Control Techniques for Preserving Cultural/Historic Properties & Collections: Notes on a Conference
This informal document summarizes the presentations of several speakers at a conference held in 1994. Some of these concepts reflected novel approaches to dealing with mold which have since become widely accepted in the field.
Ellen McCrady
Mold: The Whole Picture, Pt. 1, Abbey Newsletter, v. 23, no. 4, 1999.
Mold: The Whole Picture, Pt. 2: Assessment of Mold Problems , Abbey Newsletter, v. 23, no. 5, 1999.
Mold: the Whole Picture, Pt. 3: An Neglected Public Health Problem , Abbey Newsletter, v. 23, no. 6, 1999.
Mold: The Whole Picture, Pt. 4:: Effect of Mold on School s, Homes, & Human Beings, Abbey Newsletter, v. 23, no. 7, 1999.
These four articles go into considerable detail not only about practical treatment considerations, but also about the serious health considerations which arise from mold outbreaks. The Abbey Newsletterand The Mold Reporter have always been excellent sources of information on mold.

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