Viegas & Benton, 2014: A CONSERVATION AND PREPARATION OVERVIEW
had been glued and/or consolidated using
volunteers. The Bristol group had acquired a
diverse materials. Some of those materials
new paleontology laboratory in 1993, converted
were now very visible and turning some
from space in the so-called Inner Court
specimens dark in color, or in other cases
Building, behind the Wills Memorial Building,
showing a thin, semi-opaque layer of an
wich had been occupied by the Department of
unidentified product coating the surface. In
Biochemistry before. By 2010, this laboratory
other cases, specimens showed a greenish
space had become tired, was over-filled with
rubbery layer that attached bits of rock or even
junk, and was not fully accessible. The
bone together. To make matters worse, some of
University of Bristol invested some £800,000 in
these specimens had also been subjected to
entirely rebuilding the paleontology laboratory,
acid preparation, but had either been immersed
enclosing specialized spaces (there used to be
without any buffer and/or had not been rinsed
a single, open laboratory space), and providing
properly after the acid bath, resulting in pitted,
improved services. This refurbishment included
extremely fragile, brittle specimens.
contributions from the HLF for laboratory
There
were
further
problems
with
the
equipment
and
especially
for
improving
University“s registered collection. The first
disabled
accessibility.
The
HLF
funding
problem was that the existing collection catalog
(£295,000 in all) paid for two staff, Pedro
had
numerous
specimens
missing
or
Viegas, as laboratory technician and Ed Drewitt
unidentified (Figures 3a, b). Further, some
as learning officer, over three years and nine
specimens with accession numbers were
months, as well as the costs of running events
housed loose in communal boxes, with no
and activities, and all laboratory supplies. The
padding or any kind of separation from other
third component, required by the HLF funding,
accessioned or un-accessioned specimens,
and
enabled
by
a
constant
supply
of
causing various degrees of damage by rattling
enthusiastic students, was volunteering.
and vibrations against each other or the box
A new volunteering program was developed
walls (Figure 4). Even specimens that had been
and
implemented
among
the
University
housed and padded at some point presented
students ­ in return for their work hours and
problems of their own. Cartons used to house
dedication, students were given access to the
the specimens were broken, torn and had
newly built laboratory and received a thorough
suffered from water damage. Contents varied
training in handling and preparing micro and
from non-padded to cotton, wool, paper, plastic
macro fossils. Every year, a welcoming session
bags or too rigid Plastazote®, resulting in badly
for new students (undergraduates, Masters and
fitting, loose specimens hovering in the padding
PhDs) was arranged, giving an overview of
material. In some boxes with wool or cotton
what the project was, what were the aims,
padding, these materials were saturated with
goals, the work done so far and how they could
soot, animal droppings and even pests (Figure
contribute and benefit from it. Students were
5). Specimens inside plastic bags had suffered
encouraged to enrol in the program and a rota
from rattling and crushing, and in most cases
was made based on their time availability. The
original bags were deteriorating fast, mixing
volunteering program took place from 2010-
chunks of old plastic and plastic dust with the
2013, with hundreds of students and external
specimens.
volunteers working for the project, accounting
All these unexpected issues created a larger
for more than 6000 work hours per year in
task than expected and that required a whole
mechanical preparation work alone, making it
new conservation and curation plan. Everything
possible to have four tons of rock prepared in
had to be redone from scratch, from the
just over two years (Figure 6).
cleaning
of
specimens
to
their
At the same time, the new BDP web page was
(re)consolidation, (re)gluing and re-housing,
launched (http://www.thebristoldinosaurproject
and then a new revised database had to be
.org.uk/
), also created with the knowledge and
created.
dedication of an external volunteer, as well as
MAKING IT GOOD ­ THE SECRET IS IN THE
Facebook and Twitter pages. These internet
NUMBERS
resources were vital to spread the word about
the project and give a chance to others, not
The very active phase of the BDP, from 2010-
necessarily from a University background, to
2013, was enabled by a combination of three
join and work with us, something required by
factors: refurbished laboratory, funding, and
HLF, our funding agency.
53
Journal of Paleontological Techniques