March 2014

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With the Wonder of Birds exhibition due to open in May, work has begun preparing varied and fascinating natural history specimens for display. The exhibition has provided an opportunity for the conservation team to work closely with Natural History curator David Waterhouse in order to better understand the collections before deciding on treatment methods.

One of the star objects of the exhibition will be this case of over 140 humming birds. These beautiful iridescent birds, which were accessioned in 1893, have suffered from pest damage and years of accumulated dirt but are, in the majority, in good condition. A few of the birds need small repairs as the occasional wing or head has fallen off and needs to be reattached. A few have broken beaks or detached feathers.

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It is surprising how dirty objects and specimens can get even when they are displayed in cases. Each of the birds is having its feathers cleaned using soft brushes, cotton wool, blotting paper and solvents. The process is very satisfying as the dirt leaves a print of the bird’s wing on the blotting paper indicating how much dirt has been cleaned away.

With so many birds to work through, and two conservators working on them, we have chosen a system of cleaning and repair where each bird is given a little piece of brightly coloured thread to identify that it has been treated. So far we have worked our way through fifty-two humming birds so we still have a way to go.

The Wonder of Birds is running from the 24th May until 14th September. Make sure you don’t miss this exciting exhibition!

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