Online Exhibitions

Mold on a Kumeyaay Basketry Start

Image 1:  A detail of the basket start, showing the mold 

Image 2: A diagram of the conidia and hyphae

Image 3:  Close-up of basketry start taken in normal light

Image 4: Close-up of the basketry start taken in UV induced visible fluorescence

Molds can grow in damp, dark places.  Many baskets in Agua Caliente Cultural Museum collectionw were once used by tribes for cooking and food storage, leaving behind tiny bits of food particles, which may some day be studied to provide valuable insight into their daily lives.  As a result, mold is a constant concern, and humidity and temperature levels must be controlled to remain stable in Agua Caliente Cultural Museum's storage facility.

Molds can damage the surface and structure of individual objects and can spread from object to object within a collection, consuming nutrients through eating the collection materials. Understanding the structure of the mold and being able to locate it are important for the conservation of mold affected objects.

The Structure of Mold

Two of the easily identifiable parts of mold are the hyphae and the conidia. Hyphae are thread-like filaments and may extend below the object’s surface. The conidia, rounded spores, occur during the reproductive phase of growth, triggered by exhaustion of nutrients or changes in light and temperature. The conidia’s shape can help to identify the mold species (Images 1 and 2).

Ultraviolet (UV) Photography and Mold

UV radiation can sometimes help to identify areas of mold growth (Images 3 and 4). This is because the UV induced visible fluorescence of the mold may be different than that of the object. In the case of the basket start, the mold absorbed the UV (it appeared purple/black).

– Robin O’Hern

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