One area of curation that has always unnerved me a little bit is the fluid collection. Seeing preserved specimens floating in pungent liquids, seemingly somewhere between alive and dead is eerie. Both Ludlow and Hereford have a relatively small, but comprehensive, fluid collection. One of my projects will be assessing them and either changing those in formaldehyde over to alcohol or topping up those already in alcohol. I started reading up about Ludlow’s fluid collection, finding out about its history and strengths.
I was given one of the most enjoyable tasks I’ve had to do so far this week. Some of the specimens are used purely for handling purposes and as a result they can get pretty battered. In order to hone my creepy crawly skills I was handed a broken spider to repair. I saw its eyes looking at me and its huge fangs. It made me shiver. Once I got started, however, I got a lot out of it. The attention to detail and dextrousness required meant that it was quite intense. I had to use invisible cement (applied using a needle) and create several mini-scaffolds out of strategically-placed pins. See below!
The rest of my time at Ludlow this week was spent finding out as much as I could about trilobites. These amazing, extinct arthropods are featured in the ‘Our Changing World’ MoM exhibition and we are including some original fossils as well as some replica models. I had to choose these specimens and think of how to use them. Because we only had one type of trilobite, I decided to look at the adaptations that made them so successful in the Palaeozoic. These include their eyes (some of the earliest sophisticated eyes in nature), their body armour (protective and sometimes embellished, sometimes more streamlined) and the ability to roll into a ball. Considering they were one of the most successful species on earth, both in terms of number and longevity (they occupied the seas for over 270 million years!), they, like so many other species, appear to have met with quite a sudden end.