Cleaning the Collection

Deb King and Amanda McGuire clean collection artifacts from the Tribe of Ben-Hur
Deb King and Amanda McGuire clean artifacts from the Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur

In 2006, USA Life One Insurance (previously Ben-Hur Life) donated a ritual trunk to the museum collection. The trunk contained over 100 items related to the Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur fraternal organization. These items included hats, capes, leggings, pennants, sashes, pins, jackets, and robes. When museum staff retrieved these items from the basement of the Ben-Hur building in downtown Crawfordsville, the contents of the trunk were damp and moldy.

Managing Mold

At that time, the best thing the museum could do was to dry out the damp pieces. We sealed them in plastic bags and boxes so the mold wouldn’t damage other artifacts in the museum’s collection. Thanks to various grants, we purchased a HEPA vacuum and the necessary storage boxes and materials to properly store this part of the collection.


Cleaning the Collection

Associate Director Amanda McGuire and Grounds Manager Deb King suited up this week to start cleaning. The process required them to wear nitrile gloves, face masks, and long sleeves to protect them from the mold.

The powerful HEPA vacuum works great in removing the dirt and mold from the items, but the process is long and time-consuming. Every inch of each piece must be cleaned. We must take care not to damage the costumes with the powerful suction of the vacuum.

So far, 4 boxes and 1 plastic bag have been cleaned and moved over to archival boxes. There are still 5 more boxes and 2 more bags to sort through.

Next Steps

The next step is to catalog each item so we know what we have, give them a number so they can be easily identified and pack them away in archival boxes with acid-free tissue as padding. Stay tuned for before and after pictures!

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