It’s no surprise that people working in the Museum are rather partial to poking around in dusty storerooms to see what they might find. It’s an extra pleasure then, when we get the chance to do some sniffing about in another museum’s collection and help them with some conservation work at the same time.
Our head of Life Collections, Darren Mann, and conservator Bethany Palumbo recently got such an opportunity when they visited Abingdon County Hall Museum to condition-assess some natural history specimens there. The museum wanted to work through the material as part of a larger effort to de-clutter its collections. Bringing in Darren and Bethany helped curators there to work out the value of what they have got.
There were lots of treasures in there. They found an assortment of non-native shells, a large tortoise shell, and many pieces of mammalian sub-fossil dredged from a local river, including pieces of antler and bone. As well as assessing the condition of each item, Bethany and Darren also advised on the potential function within the museum. Specimens without any accompanying data, for example, were separated into a handling collection for use in the museum’s outreach activities.
Working with local museums in this way is a wonderful way to share skills and expertise with other professionals, and helps to build a stronger base of knowledge in the Oxford area. Besides, it’s always cool to see what can be found lurking in an old storeroom or two…
Bethany Palumbo, Conservator of Life Collections
Scott Billings, Communications coordinator