Monthly Archives: February 2015

Squeaks and Squawks

How to identify members of the rodent or bird family that may find solace in your collection’s facility.

  • Common mammals that infest archival institutions
    • Mice
    • Voles
    • Rats
    • Pigeons

House Mouse

Credit: Mark Robinson

Credit: Mark Robinson

  • Found worldwide, they travel the world via trade routes on boats
  • They prefer warmer climates
  • Signs of infestation include feces; urine; stains on textiles, holes in textiles, leathers, wood, paper, and anything else they can use to make a nest
  • Identification: 5-8 inches long, with a long tail, furry, light brown in colour, with large ears
  • Feeds on leftover food, insects, plants, antler and cellulose plastics
  • Average lifespan is 1-2 years
  • The best form of control is to seal off any hole 6 mm or larger in the collection’s facility, including around windows, doorframes, and the foundation, with a material like copper gauze that mice can’t chew through
  • Their presence could indicate a larger issue of an insect infestation


Credit: Jean-Jacques Boujot

Credit: Jean-Jacques Boujot

  • Found in meadows, fields, and prairies
  • They prefer underground burrows with thick grass
  • They do not infest buildings, but their presence could promote other pests to move in
  • Identification: 5-8 inches long, furry, dark grey brown in colour, with smaller ears than a mouse
  • They scavenge for food including scraps and vegetation
  • Average lifespan is 2-16 months
  • The best form of control is removing vegetation in close proximity to the collection’s facilities


Credit: Rekel_

Credit: Rekel_

  • Rats are uncommon in Alberta, due to its province wide rat control program, but they are common in the rest of the world
  • They prefer warmer climates, and must live within heated buildings
  • Signs of infestation include oily marks on the wall; feces; crumbs; holes in wood, textiles, leather and other things used to make their nests
  • Identification: 13-18 inches long, very long tail, furry, brown, black or yellowy white in colour
  • They scavenge for leftover food
  • Average lifespan is 1 year, but they can live for 3 years
  • The best form of control is to seal holes with a metal or concrete filling, cleaning often, ensuring garbage bins have lids, and putting metal grates on vents and drainage pipes


Credit: Joseph Baranowski

Credit: Joseph Baranowski

  • They are found worldwide from temperate, tropics, to the arctic
  • They prefer manmade environments like large cities
  • Signs of infestation include droppings on buildings and statues, feathers, and nests
  • Identification: They around 11 inches long with large bodies and smaller heads, and the colours they sport range from blue-grey, grey, black, and white
  • They need open water to survive, and they eat scraps, seeds, grains, grass, and berries
  • Average lifespan is 3-5 years
  • They won’t affect a collection, but their food scraps, nests, and droppings will attract other pests like insects to the area
  • The best form of control is keeping the grounds around the facility clean, and putting bird spikes on roof ledges to deter pigeons from nesting there.

The information on rodents and birds discussed in this blog post are summarized from the Identification webpage by Please refer to their site for more information.

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International Fires Cause Damage to Records

Two fires have been reported at institutions housing records this past weekend, one at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow and the other at CitiStorage’s Record Center in Brooklyn.

On Friday, January 30, 2015, a fire broke out at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow. Firefighters were unable to contain the blaze until Saturday evening. Although no one was injured, it is estimated that 15 per cent of the collection has been damaged by the fire and fire suppression methods. The cause of the fire is believed to be an electrical short-circuit.[1] The Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences was established in 1918 and houses an extensive collection of books and documents related to the social sciences. It contains the largest collection of Slavic language books in Russia and holds records from UNESCO and the League of Nations, among other organizations.[2]

Video of the fire at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow (0:29 min).

In the early morning of Saturday, January 31, 2015, a fire started at the CitiStorage Records Center in Brooklyn. Firefighters were called and the blaze was extinguished, however, firefighters were called back to the site an hour later as another fire had engulfed the warehouse. The facility had both fire detection and suppression systems and, although the sprinkler system was activated during the first fire, the sprinkler system was inactive during the second fire. The cause of the fires is currently unknown. CitiStorage is claiming that the building and their holdings at this location are unsalvageable.[3]

CitiStorage is an organization offering records management and storage facilities in New York and New Jersey. Many institutions utilized their services, such as the New York court system, the city Health and Hospital Corporation, and the city Administration for Children’s Services, among others.[4] Privacy issues are a concern as the debris contains confidential and sensitive information. Scorched records are not only at the site of the fire but scattered along the riverbank.


Fireboat extinguishing fire in Brooklyn with records in the water. Photo credit: Vladimir Badikov.

In many cases disasters such as these cannot be prevented, but we can prepare our facilities with equipment and supplies to deter or contain these incidents and train our staff on best practices for evacuation, salvage and recovery. Consult with your local fire department to design or examine your fire detection and suppression systems. Check that your fire detection and suppression systems are activated and functioning properly. Check electrical wiring and other potential fire hazards often. Prepare and practice fire drills. Provide staff training on the proper use of fire extinguishers. Consider purchasing emergency supplies specifically for fires (this may include fireproof storage cabinets or boxes, fire blankets and polyethylene sheeting to protect records from water damage from sprinklers).

Please take the time to implement or re-examine your institution’s fire preparedness and recovery strategies.

[1] AFP, ‘Fire in major Russian library destroys 1m historic documents,’ The Guardian, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015,

[2] Jon Stone, ‘Huge library containing historic texts and 14 million books goes up in flames Moscow,’ The Independent, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015,

[3] “Company statement regarding fire at Recall CitiStorage Facility,” CitiStorage, accessed February 2, 2015,

[4] Benjamin Mueller and Nate Schweber, ‘Papers fuel a 7-alarm fire at a warehouse in Brooklyn,’ City Room, January 31, 2015, accessed February 2, 2015, Lead Team Logo

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Creepy Crawlers

Archives strive to acquire, preserve and make accessible archival records; however, some insects value these records for their taste rather than their archival value. Here are some insects whose food source may be located in your archives:


Photo credit: Valter Jacinto


  • Found in North America
  • Like warm, humid climates
  • Signs of infestation include uneven holes and edges, visible feces and discolouration (yellow stains)
  • Identification: body is carrot shaped, approximately 12.5 mm, covered in scales, usually gray in colour, three pronged tail
  • Feed on starch, such as paper, adhesive paste, and book bindings
  • Average lifespan is 2 – 3.5 years
  • Climate control and regular cleaning regime is the best form of control

Photo credit: Malcolm Tattersall

Book Lice

  • Found in North America
  • Like cooler, humid climates (9-15°C and relative humidity 50% and higher)
  • Signs of infestation include the presence of booklice (they eat very slowly and damage is usually minor)
  • Identification: translucent, gray or brown body, less than 4 mm, back legs are thicker than front four legs, wingless
  • Feed on mould and fungi found on food, paper and wheat starch paste
  • Average lifespan is 24 – 110 days
  • Humidity control is the best form of control

Photo credit: e_monk

Varied Carpet Beetle

  • Found in North America
  • Most commonly brought indoors on clothing and in floral arrangements
  • Signs of infestation include presence on windowsills and damage to fabrics
  • Identification: round body covered in white, brown and dark yellow scales, approximately 6 mm, larvae covered in hair
  • Feed on silk, leather, furs, wool and carpets (larvae) and pollen and nectar (adults)
  • Average lifespan is approximately 1 year
  • Insect traps are the best way to control an infestation

Photo credit: Mohammed El Damir

Casemaking Clothes Moth

  • Found in North America
  • Like dark spaces and are weak flyers (will only fly around infested area)
  • Signs of infestation include visible fecal matter and cases attached to infested material or the walls/ceiling near infested material
  • Identification: body and wings are a golden yellow, approximately 10 mm wingspan, long, narrow wings, larvae carry case which takes on colour of food source
  • Feed on rugs, wool, feathers, felts, hair and furs
  • Average lifespan is less than 4 months (adults life for 4-6 days)
  • Active IPM system is best form of control

Photo credit: David Short

Brown House Moth

  • Found in North America
  • Most active during summer and autumn
  • Signs of infestation include larvae’s cocoons on or near food source
  • Identification: brown wings with dark brown spots, between 8-15 mm long, larva head is tan with a white body
  • Feed on paper, book bindings, dry organic material, carpets, dried specimens and furs
  • Average lifespan is one year
  • Active IPM system is best form of control

This information was summarized from the Pest Fact Sheets, which is a great resource to help identify common pests:

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