Herbarium specimens and ichthyology specimens differ greatly in their preservation. In preparing the specimens for collection one must be dried out completely in a plant press for its preservation while the other must be jarred and placed into a solution so that it may stay wet completely for its preservation. Missteps in the preparation of these specimens to stabilize for collection could be harmful to both of these specimens. Not freezing the specimens could lead to some catastrophic contamination with pests as both natural living beings normally have parasites or insects that attach themselves to the specimens in their natural environments.
Once preserved and quarantined for collection other shared agents of deterioration for both of these kinds of specimens would be: physical forces, dissociation, light and fire. Physical forces could easily damage a plant specimen through crushing and could destroy a fish specimen through falling and damage done to the container. Light can discolor and make brittle dried plants but for jarred organic specimens it could discolor as well and raise the temperature of the jar altering the environment within. Dissociation could be harmful to both and all museum objects as it can lead to mishandling, misplacing and many other harmful actions with many harmful effects. Fire is damaging to pretty much everything and it would certainly be interesting to find a museum object that isn’t deteriorated by fire!
Differing agents of deterioration would be things like: pests, relative humidity, water and incorrect temperature. Due to the nature of jarred specimens where they live in a micro environment within their jar and solution there seems to be many things that could not really penetrate that jar micro environment. As such things like pests, relative humidity, water and temperature differences may not have the drastic or catastrophic effects on it as it would for a dried and pressed herbarium specimen. For pressed and dried plants pests could consume the specimen, relative humidity could encourage mold growth as could the presence of water and incorrect temperature could lead to making the specimen brittle and discolored.
Providing a safe environment for these specimens away from these agents would require active monitoring, appropriate housing, knowledgeable caretaking and accurate environmental monitoring equipment. For the herbarium specimen I feel that most dangers come from pests and maintaining environmental stability, so for that specimen I would take active care to make sure that the collection area is pest free and that the environment there is stable with active monitoring to make sure that the RH levels, temperature, light and water presence do not go into harmful ranges. For the ichthyology specimen I think that the most damaging thing that could occur along with falling is that it gets prepared and stored in a cheap or inappropriate solution, so to in order to avoid those agents of deterioration I would make sure to use an appropriate and quality storage solution and make sure that the specimen jar is stored in housing that have guard rails/stabilizing brackets to prevent falls or tipping.
This certainly seem like a lot of work to keep these specimens in their favored forms for collection, if I were going to preserve a fireweed I would try to suspend it in resin and for the pike I would tan the fish skin and clean the skeleton but these techniques would only make/preserve the materials/visuals of the specimen!
Q: Are there things that you would donate to a museum collection? Or seek advice for care for?
I unfortunately missed the class meeting this week but I watched the recorded zoom and had some questions regarding preventive conservation.
With this large amount of knowledge about the work needed to preserve objects in museum collections I was wondering if this information is shared through workshop or guidebook with the public who may have objects within their personal collections they might want to protect, I am particularly thinking of Indigenous artists who do hide work and skin sewing, would the museum share information on materials care for seal skin, moose hide or porcupine quills? And along those lines of thinking does something like a leather balm assist in the preservation of used leather objects? Is that something that might be recommended? I understand that this could very easily get complicated and legal issues could arise but I am curious and am wondering if museums give advice to individuals who may be interested. Quyana!