This is actually about something that happened today – 16/08/2016!
The museum world is all pretty entwined and very keen to help newbies like me learn more things, so I’ve been lucky enough to be granted one day a week for the next few weeks to work with the natural history collection at Ipswich Museum. (Thanks to Lisa, Darren and Molly for being so kind).
Which means today was my first day ever doing actual work on a natural history specimen for display in a museum (that I can remember at this moment)! As it’s #TaxidermyTuesday, what better way to spend my time than cleaning a mounted rabbit skin that’s just come out the deep freeze to treat a pest infestation?
I was introduced to the tools of the trade and pretty much went straight to it, cleaning out larval cases, pupae and dead adult moths to make the rabbit display-worthy again. larva produced fine dusty pellets (frass) when they eat through museum materials, whether they’re moth larvae, woodworm, bookworm, etc. The way the frass from this rabbit is all stuck together in silk was enough to tell curator Molly that this rabbit had been invaded by clothes moths. An hour or so later, after cleaning with hard tweezers, soft tweezers, a mounted needle and a special museum vacuum, I had a pile of frass and dead bugs to make anyone jealous.
After all that, the glass eyes needed cleaning with a special museum-grade swab masterfully crafted by yours truly from cotton wool and a toothpick (yes, that is the accepted method) dipped in industrial methylated spirit to make them gleam like new.
Top tip – don’t get too close to the edge of the eye as old specimens are often painted here, and the methylated spirit can dissolve the paint and spread it all over the eye instead. Not cool.
I also tried my hand at identifying and documenting some of the bird egg collection but sadly didn’t get very far.
More to come over the next few weeks!