Cigarette Storage

Thanks to Martha Battle Jackson, Curator for North Carolina’s State Historic Sites, for this guest post. Thanks also to Janis Wilkens, Registrar at the Levine Museum of the New South, for her insights.

One of North Carolina’s Historic Sites is Duke Homestead, home of Washington Duke. Duke created a huge tobacco empire with his sons and later moved Trinity College to Durham. Trinity College is now Duke University. In addition to the Duke farmhouse, tobacco factory, and other outbuildings, the site has a large visitor center with exhibits on the history of tobacco production, from field to factory.


The Duke Homestead collections include a huge assortment of tobacco products, advertising, farm equipment, etc. We have stored these products, including cigarettes, plug tobacco, chewing tobacco, and smoking tobacco, for almost 40 years without any problems. In fact, a few years ago, I had a university entomologist visit the collections storage, and he was amazed at the lack of pests. We are very vigilant about checking incoming collections for pests and isolating any suspected items in polyethylene bags or using the freezer treatment to kill any pests.

This tobacco insert reads “Packed in Duke’s Cigarettes” en verso and bears the marks of insect damage on the front face. Roaches or silverfish likely caused the losses.

Although nicotine has pesticide properties, cured tobacco attracts some insects anyway. Cigarette beetles are pests to look out for in collections of tobacco products. Moreover, they will damage a range of collection materials including books and textiles.

We store all of our cigarettes in their original packaging—paper wrappers, pasteboard boxes, and tins are the most prevalent ones. Most are stored in acid-free boxes, but some of our cigarette packs are stored in old library card catalog drawers lined with microfoam and acid-free paper. The white lining helps us see if there is any active infestation, and we check all drawers once or twice a year. Larger packs and boxes are stored in flat acid-free boxes.


Most of our cigar boxes are empty, so those are packed into acid-free boxes and stored on shelves. Boxes with cigars are stored separately in acid-free boxes in another location, so we can monitor pests more easily. Again, those are checked once or twice a year.


These two collection items–a pack of More cigarettes and a pair of Longfellow cigarettes–show tiny exit holes from cigarette beetle infestations. They came into the collection with this damage and have been stored isolated in polyethylene bags. The evidence of the beetles is often more visible than the insects are. Exit holes and small piles of tobacco dust/ frass near the artifact are tell-tale signs of beetle problems. 

In addition to practicing Integrated Pest Management, climate control is important in preventing problems. We also try to keep the humidity levels in the 45-55% range–sometimes difficult in the South!


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This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on May 4, 2012, in collections care, collections management, guest bloggers, historic sites, storage and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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