July 2014

Time has ‘flown’ by since the Wonder of Birds exhibition was conceived four years ago.

The Conservation department’s contribution began two years ago with assuring lenders that we can control our gallery environment within reasonable parameters, an important part of any loan agreement. This involved interpretation of environmental data along with written statements. Discussion between NMS and lenders began as regards to object requirements, for example whether an object needs to be cased or can go on open display.

Object lists were crucial in assessing our contribution to the project. We determined early on what was realistic in the time frame, what needed to go to external conservators and the cost involved. Works on paper, oil paintings and picture frames were conserved by a select group of external specialists.

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NWHCM : 1951.235.1212, Breydon Water, 1871 by Frederick Sandys The frame undergoing extensive remedial treatment and introducing mouldings in correct sequence

The majority of the Wonder of Birds objects have been conserved in-house by the department along with the help of our ICON intern, and a recent conservation graduate. We worked alongside the natural history department and their team of volunteers to deliver the stunning uncased taxidermy. We also mounted works on paper, conserved textiles, designed conservation mounts, treated 146 Hummingbirds, repaired cased taxidermy interiors, cleaned stained glass, rejuvenated 17th century hawk hoods…….

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Assessing the work required on objects, repairing the Grebe muff and collar, humidifying one of the hawk hoods

However, our work did not stop at the bench. An exhibition of this nature requires tight regulation not only of environmental control but lighting and museum pests. We wanted to alleviate any apprehension lenders may have had as regards taxidermy on open display and assure ourselves we had done all that was possible to prevent sources of pests entering the gallery and thriving. Natural history specimens were frozen and objects thoroughly checked before being introduced to the gallery. Our Icon intern devised an integrated pest management plan for the duration of the show which monitors susceptible objects and areas of concern.

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Setting insect traps and taking light level readings

Achieving a satisfactory lighting level that emphasises objects whilst being sympathetic to the vulnerability of the exhibits is always challenging. A very acceptable light level has been achieved throughout the exhibition which does not compromise the show thanks to a combined team effort of Paris Agar, Exhibition coordinator and the Building services team.

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Condition checking loans

On installation we worked closely with the couriers from The National Gallery, the British Museum, Natural History Museum Library, V&A, Fitz William, Colchester and Cambridge Zoological museum to ensure all their loans were condition checked, handled professionally and expertly installed.

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Design and technical team installing fragile loans

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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