He may be a puppy, but his powerful nose is an amazing and unconventional tool in the fight against pests.
Pests that can ruin million dollar works of art, that is.
From the Boston Globe: "The Museum of Fine Arts has adopted the incredibly cute Weimeraner puppy, named Riley, on a volunteer basis to detect insects and other pests that might be hiding on existing or incoming collections at the gallery.
Seemingly harmless moths or bugs have the potential to damage certain types of artwork, like textiles, wood, or organic materials.
And Riley will be tasked with sniffing them out — once he has been properly trained, of course.
“We have lots of things that bring, by their very nature, bugs or pests with them,” said Katie Getchell, chief brand officer and deputy director of the Museum of Fine Arts. “If he can be trained to sit down in front of an object that he smells a bug in, that we can’t smell or see, then we could take that object, inspect it, and figure out what’s going on — that would be remarkable in terms of preserving objects.”
The museum has existing protocols in place to handle any potential infestation issues before they arise, but bringing Riley into the fold will offer an added layer of protection, she said.
“Pests are an ongoing concern for museums,” Getchell said. “It’s exciting to think about this as a new way to address the problem.”
The arrival of the floppy-eared pup with the oversized paws and droopy eyes, marks a first-of-its-kind initiative for the museum. Getchell said she’s not aware of another institution using a dog for similar work. Riley’s assistance is being billed as a pilot project, as they get a sense of his effectiveness.
While the idea of a puppy at the museum might give art lovers more incentive to visit, Riley will mostly work behind the scenes, meaning he won’t be spotted by those walking through the galleries on a daily basis.
His scent training, which will take place with his owner, the museum’s head of Protective Services, will begin in the next few months.
“If it is something that works, it’s something that other museums, or other libraries, or other places that collect materials that are susceptible to any kind of any infestation like that could use as another line of defense,” Getchell said. “That would be an amazing outcome.”
Reprinted with permission from the Boston Globe and the Museum of Fine Arts. Riley's photo courtesy of the Globe and photographer Suzanne Kreiter.