City archive has unwelcome visitors
The state archives housed in the city of Ghent are infested with a variety of insects and other pests, it was revealed last week. Among the creepy-crawlies found among the centuries-old documents are poultry red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae), booklice (Psocoptera), silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) and the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum).
Lice, mites and beetles infest state records
The archive is housed in the Geraard de Duivelsteen, a 13th century castle named after the knight and mediaeval building contractor Gheeraert Vilain. The furniture beetles were found in the wood panelling on one of the floors of the archive. According to reports by staff, they can be seen falling from the panels. However the furniture beetle is only a danger in the larval phase; the adult beetle does not feed.
The Nederschelde or Reep, part of the River Scheldt, used to run past the castle, but was covered over in the 1960s because river traffic moved elsewhere, and the smell of the watercourse became a local nuisance. More recently, the city authorities and the Flemish region have undertaken works to open up the Reep again, but this has led to problems of dampness within the Duivelsteen, leading to mould and infestations.
The state archives of Ghent have been housed in the castle since 1904, when a new wing in neo-Gothic style was built for the purpose. There have been proposals, but no concrete plans, to build a new archive gathering together records from the whole of East Flanders – there are currently branches of the archive in Ronse and Beveren. The idea of moving the present archive to the Zuidertoren office building has also been raised.
According to a report in Het Nieuwsblad, at least two people working in the archive suffered skin rashes and insect bites requiring medical treatment. In all, 15 people including volunteers work in the archive. The archive’s management declined to comment on the reports.