Lighting Talk Abstract
The Australian Museum is currently undergoing a massive renewal program part of which is the development of a permanent Natural Science gallery. Hundreds of specimens have been selected from the vast collections for this gallery entitled ‘Wild Planet’ including both modern and historic taxidermy mounts. Falling victim to the vagaries of popular taste, many of the Museum’s historic exotic specimen collections have been both out of sight and out of mind for decades. Accordingly, many unique specimens have sustained major damage while simultaneously missing out on modern conservation care.
This talk will focus of the treatment of one specimen selected for the new gallery which is an historic taxidermy mount of a White-rumped Vulture. The specimen’s most visually distracting problem was that the left wing had been eaten away down to the bone from an old pest infestation. The challenge was to make it appear whole. This kind of work having today become the responsibility of materials conservators rather than taxidermists means that the treatment approach needs to fit with modern conservation ethics and techniques. Ideally, treatments should be sympathetic, non-invasive and to the greatest extent possible, reversible. Possessing many of these desirable properties, I selected a Japanese tissue and starch paste pulp treatment. Using a template replicating the intact wing, I created a mirror- image scaffold of tissue to support the pulp. I built the wing up over a series of days until I achieved the desired shape. I then painted the feather pattern onto the surface to resemble the model wing.
Specifically, this treatment outcome was very successful. But more broadly, this large scale preparation of such a wide range of Natural Science collection material has allowed Conservation staff the opportunity to showcase contemporary, sympathetic and hopefully reversible treatment methods on old specimens that would not have received conservation attention in the past.
Megan Dean-Jones has worked in Conservation for the Australian Museum and in other cultural institutions for over ten years. Megan works across the Museum’s collections, having expertise in providing solutions to complex storage problems. Recently Megan has become involved with natural science Conservation programs, working closely on the Wild Planet project.