This week is the penultimate Find it Friday as I shall be leaving the Curatorial Services in less than two weeks. Due to this I am frantically trying to get all the current projects I have on the go completed. One of these jobs was getting all the Natural History collection from the School’s Library Service completed, documented and stored – which I have more or less done! I am very excited to see how they ultimately get used within the redevelopment of Stockport Museum.
90% of this collection is taxidermy pieces mounted in individual perspex boxes which, as considered in an earlier blog post, makes these pieces ideal for this project. To have these objects in an area that is meant to encourage getting up close to and engaging with the objects, these boxes allow the taxidermy to be out of large cases, yet still be protected. Providing the visitor with the feeling of being in a more one-on-one situation with the object, getting much closer than has previously been allowed. Which is amazing as some of the specimens are wonderful…
Recently I visited the Museum of Liverpool and they had a case showing various taxidermy birds to help understand the identity of the Liver Bird, the symbol of the city of Liverpool. Each bird within the case was given a narrative, almost a personality, which amused me. Taxidermy is seen in various lights – from a macabre and cruel ‘sport’ to an essential educational / scientific exploration tool that is also important in the highlighting of such global issues as deforestation, global warming, extinction, urbanisation, pollution issues ect. But I had never really seen this approach taken before, the giving of attitudes to the objects made me warm to them instantly and I can now see how this has become a key tool in establishing an online presence for some museums.
Museums are giving their natural history specimens a voice on the internet, namely on Twitter, to allow them to give visitors an incentive to visit their institutions, themselves! From Sue the T-Rex (one of the largest and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found!!) at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois to Glass Jar of Moles, at The Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London, which is the voice of many… moles… in a glass jar.
It’s an interesting concept to consider – would being invited to visit a museum by a 66 (ish) million year old dinosaur persuade you to do so? I’m not sure I could say that it wouldn’t me!
But the possibilities are endless; children can have their photo taken next to Sue and then their parents could Tweet the image to Sue herself! A reply would surely excite and astound a young, budding Alan Grant or Ellie Sattler, staying with them and hopefully providing a foundation to set a growing love for museums upon for years to come.
Unfortunately none of our taxidermy pieces have discovered Twitter yet, just the stores for now. Alongside the perspex boxes some larger specimens are not enclosed. A fox, badger, hare, two pheasants and a buzzard with its wings spread are all stand alone mounted pieces. Due to the time a redevelopment actually takes these collection objects might be in storage for a little while yet, so to ensure their safety I wrapped these pieces in Tyvek. This synthetic material ensures the objects are protected and dust is not allowed to accumulate that may attract pests. To make them accessible if they are required before display, I secured the Tyvek with velcro, of course, making sure to get it nowhere close to any fur or feathers.
Some conservation was required before any of this could take place, mainly on tails.
The hare’s tail had come severely loose and was at risk of falling right off despite being tied to the hare with what appeared to be thick string. I used pins to attach the tail back to the body, securely and in the correct position. It took four to five small rail pins and one larger pin centrally to get a deeper hold inside the stuffing.
Although this sounds like a small job, it made a big difference to a collection object in otherwise perfect condition.