Mildew Smell on a Hanging Map

Dear Donia,
How do I get rid of a mildew smell from a map hanging on a wall?

Map in wooden frame


Q. Dear Donia,

We recently purchased a large-scale map of ancient Rome printed in 1949 and used as a teaching aid for classics and Latin. It took us a few months to order special bronze brackets to hang the map, but now that it's unfurled and on the wall there's a really terrible acrid, mildewy smell. We knew it had stains and foxing, but didn't detect the smell when it was rolled up. It's only been a couple of days, but the smell makes eating in our dining room somewhat unpleasant. Obviously we're hoping that having it hanging will help dry out the material (not that it was damp) and perhaps the smell will go away. We live in mostly dry Los Angeles, but I know how mildew smells can linger and get worse during the rainy season. Is there something we can do to treat the map and get rid of this smell? Conservation experts want to charge thousands of dollars for conserving the map, but that's many times more than the map itself cost! We just got it on the wall and it looks gorgeous, so we're hoping there's a fairly easy solution. Thanks, Stephen

A. Dear Stephen,

I am so sorry to hear that the odor of your beautiful map is so overwhelming. The best way to try to reduce the odor may cost a bit, but not as much as a full conservation treatment. I would recommend getting a roll of MicroChamber Interleaving Paper (it comes 36 inches wide by 100 yards). This way you can use long strips in the front and back of the map and roll it back up. Leave it rolled up for a month then unroll it and check the smell. If it needs more time, put new MicroChamber paper front and back and roll it up again for a month. Repeat until the odor has dissipated enough for you to enjoy it again. With time, hopefully the odor will dissipate even more. MicroChamber Interleaving Paper absorbs odors and chemical by-products of deterioration to protect collections, so one thing to think about is which wall the map hangs on. If it is on an exterior wall, the natural difference in temperature between outside and inside could create an environment with a little higher RH which could exacerbate the mildew smell. If it can hang on an interior wall, that would be better for the smell. I hope this helps you be able to enjoy your map for years to come!