From Inside the Vaults Blog

From Inside the Vaults: Pest Management

From Inside the Vaults is a monthly blog that gives insight into best practices for collections stewardship, curation, and archaeological collecting institutions.

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Preventing collections from damage and deterioration is an important part of any collections management role. As the Collections Manager of the San Diego Archaeological Center, I spend time each week taking special precautions and following steps to monitor a variety of different environmental conditions that may adversely affect collections. Insects, spiders, and other pests can cause problems to collections and an Integrated Pest Management Policy (IPMP) will help collecting institutions monitor and track these potential challenges for the long-term.

Why is It Important?

The purpose of an IPMP is to define procedures, responsibilities, and documentation required when monitoring pests at the SDAC. These policies may vary depending upon the type of collecting institution, the surrounding environment, and repository where collections are being stored. I used a variety of sources, including reference materials from the American Association of Museums and the National Park Service, to help build a comprehensive policy for the SDAC that works for our institution and types of collections.

How It Works

There are many insects and critters running around outside of the Center and tracking their presence inside our walls is incredibly important. Each week I inspect the SDAC by observing the entire facility floor-to-ceiling. Some evidence I may find that would alert me of pest disturbances include: spider webs, frass (insect feces), dead insects, discoloration of surfaces (wood, plastic, paper, etc.), chew holes, and dirt. If any evidence of pests is found, I document the problem and monitor the area of disturbance closely.  Additionally, there are pest traps placed near all of the entrance and exit doors in the vaults, curation lab, library, Museum, and other Center spaces. These traps are checked weekly and pests are recorded for long-term monitoring and care. By comparing traps quarterly, we are able to monitor a change or influx in any particular area of the Center and also can easily identify new pests as they arrive. When checking traps I record the amount and types of pests, location of the trap, and note any unusual circumstances. While it is the job of the Collections Manager to monitor pests weekly, it is up to all Center staff to keep a watchful eye and let the Collections Manager know if there are any signs of infestation around the facility.

It may be impossible to keep all pests out of the Museum but these preventative measures can be taken so that collections do not become infested. Weekly monitoring of the Center and pest traps gives us the data we need to ensure that collections are preserved well for future generations.

By Jessica McPheters, Collections Manager


Volunteers work in the Center’s Research Library, cataloguing materials and organizing on a computer-based system.

Marketing and Administrative Volunteers assist the Development Office or Administration Office with data entry, updating marketing materials and clerical tasks. Computer experience is a plus.

Docents welcome visitors and answer general questions regarding the Center and exhibits. Docents staff the gift shop and help out with administrative and curatorial tasks.

Volunteers support event activities at the Center, such as the Annual BBQ, lectures, workshops, and fundraising events. Be a part of the party!

Volunteer provide support for K-12 programs offered at the Center. These are fun, hands-on programs that kids really enjoy. Teaching experience is a plus, but not required. Background checks are required.


With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will use photogrammetry to prepare one or more archaeological collections for digital preservation, as well as create a virtual museum exhibit for our Public Archaeology department. Per approval, special projects of the intern’s choosing are also available. During the research and planning, the intern will receive guidance as appropriate to their selected project. Prospective interns should already be familiar with photogrammetric procedures, and Agisoft Metashape.

Collections Management

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will prepare one or more archaeological collections for curation. During the course of the internship, the intern will learn to identify artifacts and ecofacts common to the San Diego region, including lithics, ceramics, historical objects, and faunal, botanical, and mineral specimens. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological laboratory procedures such as basic artifact analysis, manual and computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and preventative conservation. In addition, the intern will become familiar with historical trends in archaeological practice in the San Diego area and will be introduced to current legal and ethical issues in archaeological curation as well as the concerns and rights of culturally affiliated groups with regard to archaeological materials.

Development and Marketing

Under the direction of Center staff, the intern will support the department in various activities, including, but not limited to, fundraising and grant research; e-newsletter development; social media marketing; and website maintenance. This internship will give the intern valuable, real-world experience in non-profit fundraising and marketing.

Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology

Prospective Interns must have completed three courses: Introduction to GIS, GIS Database Management, and Intermediate/Advanced Methods in GIS. The intern will be assigned a project where they will create shapefiles and maps for curated archaeological collections, museum exhibits, and/or public outreach using ArcGIS 10.6. Center staff will instruct the intern on archaeological GIS laboratory procedures such as computer cataloguing, storage requirements, and database management.

Library Science

With the assistance of Center staff, the intern will arrange and catalog materials in the Center’s library. During the course of the internship, the intern will take a leading role in the cataloging, sorting and storing of research files and creating user guides for these collections. Center staff will instruct the intern on archival procedures, computer cataloging, storage requirements, and preventative conservation.

Public Archaeology

Harness your passion for Public Archaeology and gain hands-on experience with K-12 museum field trips, lectures, and public outreach. Additional projects may include creating virtual museum exhibits and activities, assisting in the development and implementation of K-12 curricula programs, planning and presenting public facing content, or educational field trip content of your own design. Must be able to pass a Live Scan.