Every year as fall approaches and the weather gets cooler the museum becomes more susceptible to invasions of mice. The mice are looking for warmth, shelter, and food. My job is to prevent them from getting into the museum building to find these things! Blocking possible entrances and keeping the area clean and free of materials which are attractive to the mice can help to deter them. However, mice can fit into very small holes and cracks, so occasionally one does make its way into the building. This is why I also monitor the museum for these pests.
Monitoring for mice includes looking for mouse droppings or tracks, looking for gnawed areas, hearing reports of mice scurrying or gnawing in the walls, and reports of visual sightings. When a mouse infestation is suspected, I also check along the walls with an ultraviolet light because mouse urine will fluoresce.
|Here are some field mice that took over a bird house in my backyard. Though they are cute when they are outdoors, mice can do a great deal of damage to museum artifacts.|
Mice will damage any material that can be eaten or which can be chewed or gathered for nesting. Materials stored in the same areas that they don’t consume or use for nesting will be soiled by their waste. Holes will be chewed into objects to gain access to the interior or simply to keep the constantly growing rodent teeth in check. They can pose a health hazard to humans, and they multiply very quickly. This is why it is critical to monitor for mice inside the museum, and to take action promptly if they are detected.
So far I have only had to deal with the occasional lone mouse which blundered into the museum. It is usually pretty easy to find the evidence of their trails, and setting traps in those areas eliminates the problem. Once the mouse is gone, traps are left in the area for a while to be sure there are no others in the building. Of course, I check the building for any new access points for mice, and I step up my monitoring efforts as well!
Other museums have more creative approaches to mouse control. Here’s a short video which shows how the State Hermitage Museum in Russia deals with mice: http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/2012/07/10/mice-at-the-museum-meet-the-hermitage-museums-65-feline-guards-now-with-video/
It’s certainly a novel way to keep the mice out, but I don’t think we have the budget to hire cat caretakers here! I’ll just have to continue my quest to make the museum unattractive and impenetrable to rodents.