“The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell.”

I have started my first project!  During the course of the traineeship I will be undertaking several projects which have a beginning, middle and end, and will therefore be able to show several pieces of work that I have planned and completed.  There are a few we’re thinking about but Peter Boyd (from Shrewsbury) suggested the one I started on Monday.

He mentioned a few boxes of molluscs from the 19th Century that had been ignored, neglected and recently discovered.  They are absolutely filthy and the boxes they are in, lovely as they are, are a bit worse for wear.  My project is to clean these shells and the boxes (museum pieces in themselves); inventory, photograph, organise them; and piece together all the information we have on them and find out more if I can.

Here’s an overview of what I faced:

I started by having a quick look through the box (with gloves: over a century’s worth of dust and grime is a little bit grim).  Then I chose the few larger pieces which were groups of shells glued onto boards with some information written on them.  For example:

Using a very soft brush, I dusted across the shells and the board to remove any loose filth.  Then I used a very small amount of water (a little dampness, really) and some soft brushes to gently clean the deeper muck.  Ta-dah:

Note: some of the shells in the ‘before’ picture were loose and just sitting there, hence why they are not in the ‘after’ picture.  I cleaned them too and have placed them in their original positions (see later photos).

I repeated this process for all of the boards.  I guess it makes more sense just to show you.

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Now for some in the lovely Victorian boxes I mentioned.  They are cardboard and glass: many are in decent shape but others need some help.

Before:

After:

Curiously some of the packing material used over a hundred years ago was pretty interesting.  Underneath the wadding in one of the specimens was this:

My day’s work:

I still have some way to go, however, but the satisfaction of getting pretty specimens and discovering what is underneath all those years of grime is very cool.  What I have cleaned so far is but a fraction of what I need to do:

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