This topic has 5 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 3 years ago by EvanWRapp.

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    I have kind of an curious topic to bring up. I am wondering about the health and safety of some old drops. In the past (and likely still in some places today) Scenics have used powdered pigments which contain lead and possibly toxic chemicals. I am wondering if anyone is aware of any safety measures to carry out when handling old drops, or possibly a test that can be carried out on old drops to determine their composition.

    Thanks so much,


     Angelique Powers
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    When I was working to catalog the UofMN’s historic drops from the 1920-1950’s. I was instructed to wear a N95 Dust Mask while folding and unfolding. Gloves were optional but as soon as I saw “dusting and flaking” from the drop I usually put them on ( it was a hot sweaty summer)

    Things to help you figure out what you are working with: If the drop is super soft, flexible and it doesn’t feel like you could scrape off any paint then you are most likely working with an Analine Dye drop. It’s safe to handle. DryPigment painted drops can be scraped a bit (aim for the top corners of the drop. Sometimes simply rubbing a paper towel or rag along the surface will transfer the paint. If it’s a Scenic Paint, it won’t usually come off and even if painted super thin can still feel a crunchy and thicker than a dye drop.

    The biggest safety concern with old drops is not the dry pigments – it’s with Mold and animal droppings as those are most concerning for allergies and other health issues.

    If you find Mold on your drop, Rebecca Deny instructed me to wear my PPE, wipe it down with Clorox wipes. Let dry. Vacumn with a hepa filter any loose stuff. Lightly spray with a things Lysol and try to brush off and vacumn again.
    If your drop is covered with pigeon or mouse droppings- take photos and then consider it lost. Way to toxic for you to afford a real historian like Wendy to make safe again.

    Hope this was helpful
    – sorry for typos, used my phone to reply.


    Thank you very much for that information! It was very helpful. I have a similar task to catalog over a hundred drops for Banff Centre for the Arts, I believe the earliest date back to the 70’s but until I physically get into them I cant’t say for sure.  They’re all bagged and stored in a heated facility. I’ve been told that most of them were painted in Italy. A lot of history!

    Do you know of any theatres/places that might be interested in acquiring old drops?




    • Experience: 5-10 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    Hey Q…

    Out of sheer curiosity, are you telling us that animal shat will deem a drop toxic? This is 100% a totally serious question in case there was any doubt about it.

     Angelique Powers
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    Sorry for the late reply to Evan’s clarification question about animal scat on drops. I wanted to make sure I was passing along correct information, and my source just returned from a trip.

    Drops that hang in the air for a long time will gather lots of dust, that can have possible nasty stuff in it like flash pot powder and other dusts some “special effects”.   That dust, along with flaming of paints and or pigments is why wearing a particulate (dust) mask is important.

    The other main reason for a dust mask is if you encounter droppings from Pigeons and or bats on the drop ( this happens when a drop is stored in a fly loft with a the birds on a  leaky roof or in the grid.  If your drop has those types of droppings on it – it because an immediate case for a Haz-mat situation as yes that is then considered to be toxic until you can have it tested and treated and that is a lot of money to do.


    Bonus – one way to tell if your drop has been painted with dry-pigment or paint is look for “sheen”  Dry-pigments will always be “dead flat” when even Iddings will still develop a slight sheen.



    • Experience: 5-10 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    Thanks for the clarification Q!

    Good info in that post

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