Oct 8, 2014

DDF Project blog - Conserving Scilla

As part of the Museum's new exciting project arising from the recent award from Arts Council England Designation Development Fund, a project conservator, Rachel Howie, has been working on some of the Museum's most prized specimens with the aim of enhancing digital access to these special objects.
Category: 2014
Posted by: Sarah

"For five weeks I have had the pleasure of conserving some very interesting specimens from the incredible collection of the Renaissance artist Agostino Scilla (1629-1700). The collection is comprised of 210 paleontological and zoological specimens collected prior to 1670 and is a subset of the Woodwardian Collection. Scilla compared the fossils found around his native Messina and Calabria with local sea life using comparative anatomy and observations on fossil preservation to prove that fossils are the petrified remains of plants and animals.

The Scilla collection is being digitised using high resolution 2D photographic images, 360 ° rotational object movies and 3D laser scanned and digitally rendered models in order for visitors and the academic community to be able to access the collection. This is a pilot project, funded by Arts Council England under their DDF programme, for future digitisation of the Woodwardian Collection.

My role was to clean and stabilise the objects so that they could be safely handled, photographed and placed on the rotational platform. The first step was to check the condition of every object, which included taking measurements and noting the different types of labels and any notable features and areas of damage. After this a treatment plan was approved and treatment could commence. For the majority of objects this included light surface cleaning only. For a few, previous repairs were taking down as the adhesive had aged, discoloured and become brittle. The object was then reconstructed using a conservation grade adhesive, Paraloid B-72."


E-22-106 before and after removal of the old adhesive and reconstruction using Paraloid B-72.


E-27-6 Reattachment of tooth to matrix using Paraloid B-72 in acetone.

A number of labels had to be stabilised and reattached using methylcellulose.


B-17-30 (54) reattachment of label. I could determine the original position of the label due to the lighter patch on the object.

By Rachel Howie

Monday to Friday
10:00 to 13:00 & 14:00 to 17:00

10:00 to 16:00