Bugs, Painting and Life on Mars.

Week 2 began with the disposal of the toilet from the Air Raid Shelters discussed HERE. Unfortunately, the quality was just too bad to reverse. The water had caused what appeared to be the initial stages of damp in the wood of the seat, which could cause deterioration further and a risk to the public. However, in the mist of losing this there is still a bright hope for the other objects. Restoration of some of the objects retrieved from the Air Raid Shelters has begun and they are already looking almost unrecognisable.

Fire buckets before restoration began.

Fire buckets before restoration began.

Again, this particular restoration job is a fairly simple one as these objects were sort after with the intent of being put in the harsh environment of the shelters, and they aren’t actually collections items. Initially the dirt and the sand that has accumulated on the objects from the sandstone of the shelters has to be cleaned off. This is done using some wire wool and elbow grease. Followed by a wipe down with some warm water and the objects are left to dry. The objects then need to be repainted. Luckily, the objects original colouring is obvious so the same colours are used, so far we have focused only on red, cream and silver objects and the transformation is great. Obviously, once the objects are dry touching up will need to be done and some objects require additional painting, for example the fire bucket needs a new ‘FIRE’ painted on the side and the Wardens helmet a ‘W’. But for now, great improvements are being made. Here are a few photos of the progress so far…

This week I also did a lot of RD-ing of objects into the collection. These objects included

1970's skirt.

1970s skirt.

some lovely 1970’s clothing.  This clothing was used in an exhibition on ‘Life on Mars’ that has been running since 2008 at the Art Gallery. RD or Retrospective Documentation includes assigning an object an RD number. The RD number will be on its Modes profile as well as on the object. So, for example, ‘RD.33367’ will be how an object is identified throughout the whole system; paper work, electronically, object wise, etc. Retrospective Documentation by definition is the recording of new data and information regarding an object that has already been used or kept within the collection. The information required has to meet the minimum standards set by SPECTRUM.

Some of the 70's patterns.

Some of the 70’s patterns.

So, I gathered information relating to the items of clothing such as a brief description and photograph (enabling for the object to be identified), the age/manufacturing info, where the object was acquired from, where it has been/will be/is being stored, just to name a few. These objects had Modes pages created but were unable to be assigned a permanent storage location within the collection as due to their role in the exhibition of often being actually worn they will have to spend some time in the freezer, just in case. Speaking of freezers…

Janny and I spent some time this week taking some collection items out of the freezer and indeed, putting some more objects in their place. The idea of using a freezer in collections is that this will kill any bugs and infestations that may be on or inside the object. Pest management in museums is paramount in conserving a collection. Tiny insects can have a massive and detrimental effect on various items in a collection so it is important to prevent it from happening rather than dealing with the issue once it has. However, in this case it was too late. The items we were removing from the freezer were all taxidermy items, mostly birds. These birds had been removed from Vernon Park earlier in the year (which you can read about on Emma’s blog HERE) and had shown signs of infestation and so had been in the freezer since. One bird in particular, a Spoonbill, showed evidence of serious infestation in its crest of drooping plumes situated on the back of its head. There were numerous

Carpet beetles visible in the Spoonbill feathers.

Carpet beetles visible in the Spoonbill feathers.

exoskeletons shed by Carpet beetles as they have grown, so some freezer time was very important for this little guy. Once removed from the freezer I used paint brushes to gently brush the pests out of the feathers as with these bugs living inside the plume  they had become very loose and delicate. A few feathers did fall from the bird but this was unavoidable at the time, and the only way to ensure that this didn’t happen was to make sure the bird was never infested at all. Thankfully, noticing these ‘visitors’ before the Spoonbill was stored away in the permanent collection meant that other taxidermy will not be at risk.

Once an object is removed from the freezer it must be tagged, marked on a list as removed from the freezer and then found a permanent home in the collection. Its location must then, obviously, be updated on Modes.

Once the freezer was empty, we could fill it right back up again. This time however, we were only able to fit two objects in, due to their size. They were; a large Red Kite and a Fawn.

Red Kite.

Red Kite.

A list must be kept at all times of freezer activity, this is so every trip to the freezer is accounted for. When an object goes in to the feezer it is added to the list with the date, once the object comes out the date is then added again to ensure that time never escapes you and the minimum ‘sentence’ is always met.



Taking the Fawn for example; before the Fawn can be placed in the freezer it must be carefully wrapped in tissue paper and then carefully wrapped in plastic. The plastic must be sealed, expelling as much of the air as possible. This must then be labelled with the objects basic identification information and placed in the freezer. The Fawn showed signs of infestation (this can be the bugs themselves or Frass, which is bug poo) in its underside, whereas the Red Kite shared a case with the Spoonbill and so is in there for precautionary reasons, but whatever the reasons are, the outcome will be the same – infestation free!!

This entry was posted in Air Raid Shelters, Art Gallery, Freezer, Restoration, Retrospective Documentation, Taxidermy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Bugs, Painting and Life on Mars.

  1. Pingback: Conservation of two very different objects, in two very different ways. | Exploring the Collection…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s