Bethany Palumbo is a Conservator specialising in the preservation of Natural History Collections. Over the next few months, she will be conserving several specimens for the new Museum, including four bird dioramas and a large Atlantic Sturgeon.
These specimens will be used in the new displays and it’s her job to make sure they are clean, stabilised and looking as beautiful as nature intended for you all to admire. Bethany is currently working on the bird dioramas, which include a Buzzard, Spoonbill, Black Grouse and a Western Swamphen. A diorama is a representation of a species in its natural habitat, and these dioramas are composed of glass panes, held together in a wooden frame. The taxidermy birds are displayed in a naturalistic pose, with real botanical specimens used as foreground materials. Over time however these dioramas have become damaged and dirty with broken glass panes, flaking and faded specimens. When conserving museum objects of this age and rarity, it is very important to consider carefully what level of treatment is required. Restorations should be essential, sympathetic and reversible where possible.
Before any conservation treatment is undertaken, the dioramas are documented and photographed. After this the glass panel on the front of the diorama is carefully removed, allowing her to access the specimens. Any loose botanical specimens are removed and the diorama and specimen are thoroughly cleaned. Various treatments are made to the specimens as required including repairing a cracked beak, grooming twisted feathers or adding subtle colour to feathers that have faded. The dried plant specimens also receive a light airbrushing to revive their colour. Once everything is clean and stabilised, the glass panel is returned and the exterior of the diorama is sanded, repainted and sealed. The diorama is then ready for display.
To follow the conservation treatment of these specimens in readiness for the new Museum, follow Bethany on social media.