Museum curators battle rise in bug numbers during pandemic with new card game

Staff continue fight against vermin with innovative entertainment

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Museums have been overrun with pests during pandemic closures © Benoit Gauzere

Museums have been overrun with pests during pandemic closures © Benoit Gauzere

Whilst museums struggle to counter growing numbers of pests during lockdown, a new card game has been created to boost knowledge of the main offenders’ identification and treatment.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” says Helena Jaeschke, a conservation development officer with the South West Museum Development Programme, whose daughter is a professional games designer. Together they developed a ‘Save the Museum!’ card game, loosely based on the popular ‘Top Trump’ format.

“You can flick through the cards to learn details about pests and possible treatments whilst having a coffee break, or else challenge each other with a game,” Jaeschke says. Whilst initially created to help staff directly dealing with pests, the hope is that others in the museum will also engage; front of house staff and cleaners are often the first to encounter (or unknowingly clear away) evidence of such pests.

Each card features a silhouette of an insect to be identified, with the rear side of the card including further details of the damage they inflict, their adult and juvenile sizes, and details of their preferred climates.

Packs of cards are being provided to all 140 heritage collections taking part in the region’s 'Pest Partners' project, which began in 2020 thanks to emergency funding from Historic England. The project aims to help organisations tackle rising vermin levels, exacerbated by the closure of galleries and reduction of staff brought on by the pandemic.

The National Trust also announced a new pest-control trial this February, amid "concerns" over the worsening situation. The trial, based at Blickling Hall in Norfolk, will combine the release of microscopic parasitoid wasps with moth pheromones, in a bid to reduce moth larva. Results are due to be released this autumn.

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