Rae, 2014: EXPLORING THE COMMON GROUND
Torok 2012), water with or without detergents
journals, so missing sources more likely to be
or products developed for taxidermy (Rogers,
used by curators or preparators. Valuable work
1990a, 1990b) may be used. Some of them,
is so often not published or presented at all it
selected in all good faith, can have very
may seem too routine, not scientific enough or
damaging consequences: they may be applied
be too time-consuming to write up. This adds
to objects which they may damage, for
to the difficulties for specialists in both natural
instance
vacuuming
away
evidence
of
history and organic artifacts to understand
characteristic parasites from animal skins, or
each other's challenges and to share resources
be difficult to remove, such as Draft Clean, or
and research.
deteriorate over time. Practitioners can find
they are unable to keep pace with research,
especially when it is presented by specialists in
PROMISING INITIATIVES
other fields, and end up relying on out-dated,
but familiar materials.
It would be wrong to suggest that those
Relaxation to remove distortions or folds that
responsible for natural history and organic
limit the usability of skin or fiber objects is
artifacts do not interact - the 1st International
common. Controlled humidification is a method
Symposium-Workshop
of
Natural
History
often selected by artifact conservators (Sully,
Collections is one example. International
1992). More dynamic re-hydration or even
Council
of
Museums

Committee
for
commercial tannage (C. Collins, personal
Conservation,
explicitly
encourages
its
commun., 2013) is an option taken with some
Ethnography and Natural History Working
natural history specimens. These are very
Groups to cooperate. Does this reach curators
different solutions to very similar problems and
and preparators?
Probably not it is very
the results achieved may not be well
strongly under the `conservation' banner, which
understood in the longer term or in relation to
curators may not feel is relevant enough to
loss of evidence. Would a less aggressive
them.
The
Natural
Sciences
Collections
method work just as well? Could more research
Association (NatSCA) and Society for the
data be retained by an alternative approach
Preservation of Natural History Collections
(Eklund, 2010)?
(SPNCH) have some members from both fields
Repair of skins is another area with shared
and foster sharing of knowledge. Preventive
challenges - splits, tears, degraded surfaces,
care has seen considerable cooperation and
disintegration to which natural history and
pooling of experience.
artifacts
specialists
have
also
developed
The role of individuals can make a big impact.
differing solutions. A wide range of adhesives,
A
curator,
conservator,
preparator
or
consolidants and support materials have been
taxidermist, who is interested in what their
explored (Rae and Wills, 2002; Moore, 2006;
colleagues do, can start the ball of cooperation
van Grouw, 2010) and different combinations
rolling. This is what has happened in some
selected. Here too there is room for more skills
regional museums in the UK, for instance the
sharing. Could the repair of splits and torn
Horniman Museum (London) where there has
seams in mounted animal heads and those in
been an effort to work with taxidermists and to
fur clothing (White and Sully, 1992) benefit
explore materials more usually used by natural
from similar treatments? Leather and book
history curators. The Natural History Museum
conservators have worked long and hard to
(London) has involved artifact conservators as
develop effective treatments for acid-decayed
well as curators in starting to review and
leathers (`red rot'). Could they help to address
develop guiding standards for the care of
the problems posed by `fat-burn'?
natural history collections. These are exciting
The
places
or
publications
where
initiatives.
information is shared
CONCLUSION
Accessing relevant work carried out by those
working in other fields can be a real challenge.
Those who care for natural history specimens
The majority is published, naturally, in places
and organic artifacts from other collections can
which fellow specialists use most. Those caring
learn much from each other. With the range of
for natural history collections in particular have
materials, technical and ethical challenges
a very wide range of
special
interest
shared there is extensive common ground.
publications which they can use and none of
Contact between people of differing roles,
which
might
be
conservation
networks.
backgrounds and training can be uncomfortable
Conversely, artifact conservators are most
at times and old prejudices take time to
likely to publish in conservation focused
change. Actions do not need to be big,
108
Journal of Paleontological Techniques