This morning Kate (The Natural Sciences Curatorial Assistant) asked me to help as she went and did some of her biannual condition checks on some of the Earth Science collections in storage & on the galleries.
It involved a list of objects, which we went round to check the condition of, take new photographs and make notes on.
The specimens were compared against records & pictures from Kates last check. Notes were taken to record the objects current condition (Good, Fair or Poor) and these notes will then be transferred and added onto the existing database record along with up to date photographs for each of the objects which were checked.
The picture above is a of an Irish elk antler. As you can see on the left hand side, the antler is already quite damaged (which was already like that before I got near it!).
Above is a close up of the antler, showing in more detail the damage.
Another specimen which I found interesting was this petrified nest. Again, there is slight damage along the top, where some parts have broken off.
Below is the left fore paddle of a Plesiosaurus. Although it can’t be seen on the image (it’s just from my phones camera, I’m waiting for a real one) there is a slight bit of Pyrite oxidation between the gaps in the fossilised bones. This can be a major problem within fossil specimens, due to the oxidation and forming of iron sulphate. Iron sulphate crystals can then grow & expand, which can lead to fracturing of the specimen. This can be easily stopped with good preventative conservation, keeping fossils in dry conditions.
Condition checks are an important part of collection care, although it’d be impossible to check every single object, but can help to protect some of the more fragile objects. They are used to make sure that the specimens don’t deteriorate too much over time, although inevitably this is what will happen. Checks can also be useful in order to identify any special conservation requirements particular objects may need.