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case study

Beetle & Woodworm Heat Treatment

Ipswich Museum

The Ipswich Museum is home to a fascinating selection of artefacts, many of which are centuries old. A significant number of these are timber artefacts and the museum staff recently discovered a growing population of both death watch beetle and woodworm that threatened their irreplaceable collection.

The use of chemical treatments was swiftly ruled due to the delicate nature of many items, plus the challenge of accessing all areas of the near 6000 sq ft storage warehouse that houses over 5000 individual items.

In addition to this chemical treatments are unable to kill all life cycle stages of the infestation, such as unhatched eggs, larva and pupae, leading to the threat of reinfestation.

Working with the museum

With such a priceless collection of artefacts to be treated, we worked closely with the museum's senior conservator and the team from NBC Environment to provide a detailed site assessment and treatment proposal.

Artefacts that were designated temperature sensitive (such as oil paintings etc) were identified and scheduled for temporary off site storage prior to treatment.

In addition to the sizeable area to be treated, certain areas of the property had to be isolated from any increase in temperature, whilst the main treatment area itself required complete control of ambient moisture levels to ensure that timber artefacts were not subject to moisture loss.

Our proposed solution was to completely isolate temperature sensitive areas, whilst sealing the main warehouse to prevent the escape of ambient moisture during treatment.

To demonstrate our complete control of these variables, we outlined the deployment of temperature and RH probes throughout the museum, including some which were to be inserted into the centre of example timbers to directly measure the moisture content and temperature within artefacts themselves.

'Following on from another successful project at The Ipswich Museum we can't recommend the heat treatment highly enough.

Trustheat's ability to turn around a treatment in a short space of time is not only critical in minimising disruption to our clients, but it also demonstrates that even sensitive items can be treated with minimal fuss'.

Stuart Miller
NBC Environment

Complete control

With the museum team endorsing our proposal, we arrived on site and established a number of heat resistant isolation barriers throughout the building.

All apertures that could allow moisture loss were identified and sealed, with a full network of data probes being established throughout the building and within sample large dimension timbers.

We also installed probes within the temperature isolated areas to ensure they remained within agreed control measures set by the museum.

With a network of heat exchangers systematically distributed throughout the building, our powerful mobile system was activated, evenly raising the ambient temperature throughout whilst being monitored in live time by the on site team.

In the main treatment area we raised the ambient temperature to in excess of 49°c in just over 12 hours. In the adjacent room that was isolated to control temperatures, the temperature never exceeded 25°c throughout the entire treatment.

With a consistent temperature environment now established, it took just 18 hours to raise the temperature in the core of the large dimension timber to the 'kill temperature' of 49°c, ensuring that both the woodworm and beetles (including their eggs, larvae and pupae) within artefacts were completely dessicated and eradicated by exposing them to these conditions for an 8 hour period.

Live-time monitoring was closely observed by our team and the senior conservator, demonstrating no loss of moisture content within the test timbers at any point during treatment.

The whole process of site preparation, installation and the heat treatment of over 5000 artefacts took just over 3 days, with no damage or moisture loss being observed in any of the artefacts. Using no harmful chemicals, staff were able to quickly resume working, safe in the knowledge that all life cycle stages of both infestations had been eradicated.