Analysis of pesticide residues on museum objects repatriated to the Hupa tribe of California.


In the past, it was common practice for museum professionals and private collectors to apply a variety of pesticide agents to objects in their collections to preserve them from depredations by microorganisms, fungi, and other pests. The Native American Graves Repatriation and Protection Act allows federally recognized tribes to request that museums return objects taken from their ancestors. Given that poor records were kept on the treatment of individual objects, it is unknown whether specific objects are contaminated with these pesticide agents. Although chemical analysis represents the only reliable means to determine the types and levels of pesticides on these objects, surprisingly few publications document the extent of this contamination in museum collections. This paper reports on the determination of arsenic, mercury, and several organic pesticides on 17 objects that were recently repatriated to the Hupa tribe in northern California. Four samples were taken from each object: two for arsenic and mercury analysis via flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry and two for organic pesticide analysis via gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Percent levels (wt/wt) of mercury were detected on many samples, and 0.001 to 0.183% (wt/wt) levels of p-dichlorobenzene, naphthalene, thymol, lindane, and/or DDT were detected on many of the samples. These results indicate that Hupa tribal members should not wear these objects in religious ceremonies, proper precautions should be followed when dealing with potentially contaminated objects, and that more serious consideration should be given to this issue at a national level.

Cite this paper

@article{Palmer2003AnalysisOP, title={Analysis of pesticide residues on museum objects repatriated to the Hupa tribe of California.}, author={Peter T Palmer and Matthew Martin and Gregory R. Wentworth and Niccolo Caldararo and Lee N. Davis and Shawn Kane and David P Hostler}, journal={Environmental science & technology}, year={2003}, volume={37 6}, pages={1083-8} }