Collections and conservation

Hello! Em here,

A few months ago, I was asked by my museum buddy Molly Carter (Collections and Learning Curator) whether I would like to be involved in an exciting new project working with the Victorian Natural History collections at Ipswich Museum. OF COURSE I SAID YES! I love all things Natural History and am really interested in taxidermy – so what better combination could there be?!


5 months to the New Year. All 4 Ipswich trainees got involved in the Collections Information Programme (CIP), which is a huge retrospective documentation project where we got the opportunity to work with the CIP team at Christchurch Mansion. We were on hand to assist with the documenting, photographing and recording of data of objects (lots and lots of objects). Earlier on in the traineeship, Jayne Austin (Ipswich Museum Manager) delivered a session on Documentation training. Over the 3 month CIP project, we were able to put all the things we’d learnt into practice.


This new project is very much like the work that we did for CIP at Christchurch Mansion, only this time we’re documenting the Natural History Collections. Luckily, a few years back, a team of staff gave the objects accession numbers, brief descriptions and dimensions. We’re now adding to their records by photographing the objects, case by case.I started by working on the case with the monkeys and Molly taught me how to carry out what’s called ‘remedial conservation’ on the taxidermy specimens. I was introduced to a nifty little appliance called a ‘Museum Vac’ – a special hoover with a nozzle covered with netting, that can be used on a low suction, to carefully clean the specimens. We used brushes of varying densities to remove any dirt and dust from the animals, sweeping it towards the nozzle of the Museum Vac. Once the body of the specimen had been cleaned, we used a chemical called Industrial Methylated Spirit – which is 70% IMS and 30% distilled water – to get any grease or dirt off the glass eyes using make-shift cotton buds, known as swabs.
I got to carry out remedial conservation on a Pennants Red Colobus and Black-Eared Marmosets →
At Ipswich Museum we have such an amazing collection of different specimens within the Natural History collection – from screaming hairy armadillos and ruddy mongoose, to preserved snakes in jars and boxes of wonderfully colourful hummingbirds. Working on this project has been really enjoyable as it has allowed me to increase my documentation and object handling skills, it’s helped me to enhance my knowledge of remedial conservation on Natural History specimens and work with a collection that I am fascinated by!
Below are some of my favourite photos of Natural History specimens that the team took during the project.

Until next time,

Em 🙂

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