Meet Riley, the puppy training to sniff out bugs in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has gotten some pretty cool art recently. The museum got a collection of 113 Dutch paintings. Its collection of 20th-century painters also grew. This has all been in the last year.
But the museum’s latest addition is Riley. Riley is a Weimaraner puppy. He will help the museum search for insects and pests. The pests might harm the art. This story is currently fetching the most attention. That’s according to Steve Annear. He works at The Boston Globe.
Bugs in a museum are no small problem. Moths can eat delicate textiles. Those textiles include wool. It includes silk. And it includes cotton. Beetles can burrow into wooden objects. That’s not to mention the horrors that silverfish can inflict on books. Here's how to get an idea of how much damage bugs can inflict on museums. Just consider the outbreak of “clothes moths” that infested just about every museum in Great Britain.
The Museum of Fine Arts wanted to stop such infestations before they start. Enter the puppy.
“We have lots of things that bring, by their very nature, bugs or pests with them.” That's according to Katie Getchell. She is chief brand officer and deputy director. She works at the Museum of Fine Arts.
She explained in an interview with Annear. "If [Riley] can be trained to sit down in front of an object that he smells a bug in, that would be remarkable in terms of preserving objects. If we couldn't smell it or see it, then we could take that object, inspect it, and figure out what’s going on."
Nicki Luongo is the museum’s director of protective services. She is also Riley’s owner. She will train the pup for the job. This will take place over the next year. That's according to Darren Reynolds. He’s at ABC News. Right now, Riley doesn’t know a clothes moth from a piece of kibble.
Weimaraners are a particularly good breed for such tasks. They have stamina. They can work for long hours. They don’t get bored. That’s one reason they are often used as bomb or drug-sniffing dogs. It doesn’t hurt either that Riley does not have a long tail. This makes him a good dog for working in a museum full of fragile objects.
Riley isn’t the museum’s only defense against insects. Getchell tells Annear of the Globe that the museum already has strict rules. They are designed to keep creepy crawlies from the collection. Riley will work mostly behind the scenes. This will be as an experiment. If he’s on point when it comes to bug detection, other museums might get their own pups.
This isn’t the only program using dogs to safeguard cultural artifacts to make news lately. The Penn Museum and the Penn Vet Working Dog Center is working with the nonprofit heritage group Red Arch. They are training dogs to sniff out stolen pieces of cultural heritage. That's according to Katie Bontje. She’s at the Daily Pennsylvanian.
The program is called K-9 Artifact Finders. It is using training material from the Penn Museum to help the dogs find the stolen goods. If that goes well, the dogs could be sent into the field. They would go with customs agents. They would track down stolen artifacts.
There’s been an uptick in antiquities smuggling in recent years. It has been fueled by ISIS. And it is fueled by anonymous internet sales. It’s possible that antiquities dogs could help crack down on the trade. At the very least, they seem like they might be able to sniff out any antiquities based on cats.