After hours, the gallery floors of the Museum of Fine Arts will be patrolled by a new set of paws. With floppy ears, icy blue eyes, and a slobbery nose, Riley does not make up the stereotypical museum guard.
A 12-week-old Weimaraner puppy, he may be small for now, but if successful, Riley’s job could prove to be one of the most important safeguards towards protecting MFA collections: sniffing.
Riley’s job is to sniff for moths and other insects potentially hiding in current and incoming artwork. Pest control has proved to be a major problem in galleries around the world in recent years, most notably with the outbreak of clothes moths in Britain.
Objects and people constantly traffic in and out of the MFA—with this comes the risk of bugs. Anything made of inorganic materials, flowers, wood, or textiles is especially susceptible to containing creatures that could damage the museum’s priceless collections.
While the MFA has yet to experience bug problems so far, an official press release from Karen Frascona, director of public relations, states that Riley will work with Conservation and Protective Services as an extra layer of protection to stop infestations before they start.
Riley was carefully selected, not only for his playful personality, but breed. Weimaraners are highly intelligent dogs and have an innate sense of smell—perfect for identifying pests.
The MFA came up with the idea to add Riley to the team in 2017 and is excited to have launched the first museum puppy-pilot-program of its kind. If Riley’s training is successful, his services will prove invaluable to the MFA, and other museums may follow suit.
Riley lives with the MFA’s director of of Protective Services, Nicki Luongo, and is currently undergoing intensive training to improve his scent detection for active duty next year. For now, he works with the MFA on a volunteer basis.
Unfortunately, the majority of Riley’s training and work will take place behind the scenes, so visitors should not expect to see him on their next visit.
There’s no denying that Riley is the new star of the MFA—he is currently working on building a social media platform.
Featured Image Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts Boston