We use replica hats in a range of activities in Hampshire Museums Services (school sessions, touring exhibitions etc). My understanding is head lice have hooked legs which aren't very good at holding onto anything other than human hair. I think if an adult helper/teacher/parent doesn't want their child to try on a hat they can make that decision but I don't think that means we have to stop providing certain experiences.
In approx 11 years of working with the public I've caught head lice twice and neither time was linked to hats!
Hampshire Museums Service
From: List for discussion of issues in museum education in the UK. on behalf of Verity Walker
Sent: Mon 15/01/2007 15:20
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Head lice and replica costume
Thanks Emma for making the entire GEM e-list start to scratch their heads - my understanding is that headlice can survive on anything for a while (cinema seats for example) but they are mainly passed from head to head when children work or play closely together. Good grief, doesn't the benefit of trying on fantastic replica costume would far outweigh the disadvantages of a session with a comb and conditioner for one or two unlucky parents (and yes I have done it with kids of my own)? These aren't plague fleas we're talking about after all! You could try occasionally freezing the headgear which would probably kill them off, but in my view a couple of lice may make it all the more authentic...
Perhaps you should slip a one-liner about this into your standard risk assessment and then forget about it and hope you don't get visited by anyone quite so officious again?
Excuse me, must go and... um... comb my hair!
Verity Walker <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
[log in to unmask]
From: List for discussion of issues in museum education in the UK. [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Emma Webb
Sent: 15 January 2007 14:25
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Head lice and replica costume
Apologies for the title of this email but I would like information from people who have costume to try on, either in galleries or as part of a handling collection. WE recently launched a small series of activity areas in our museum which include costume for visitors to try on.
The replica costume includes a felt tricorn hat, and three woollen and/or velvet hats. We have had a comment from a school nurse that we should not include headgear as they can harbour lice. Googling this subject does not come up with anything conclusive on whether or not headlice can survive in hats and transfer from person to person.
Learning and Programmes Manager
National Museums Scotland
Edinburgh EH1 1JF
Tel +44 (0) 131 247 4267
Fax+44 (0) 131 220 4819
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