1997, Derby:


  • Collecting problems in the Kimmeridge Clay. Steve Etches.
  • Modelling a damselfly at a scale of 20:1. Michaela Forthuber.
  • Scymnognathus: how a disarranged skeleton can be a 3D model. Susanne
  • Video and talk - the appeal of reproductions. Susanne Henssen
  • Cracking up. William Lindsay.
  • Building a conservation database. Glenys Wass.


  • Tertiary vertebrate fossils from Bavaria, South Germany. Lissy Biber.
  • Simple tests for a new PVA. Adrian Doyle
  • Model of a hatching hornet on a scale of 50:1. Michaela Forthuber.

1999, Edinburgh:

  • CT and MRI of a mouldic fossil. Neil Clark.
  • 16 museums, 1 man and his computer. Paul Davis.
  • Environment and microclimate. Adrian Doyle.
  • Grasping the past. Michaela Forthuber.
  • David Gray.


2000, Portsmouth:


  • Cleaning fossil material with Lasers. Lorraine Cornish.
  • Managing a barrier film 'microclimate enclosure'. Adrian Doyle.
  • Skeleton in the cupboard: using dermestid beetles for cleaning bones. Michaela Forthuber.
  • One solution to producing a replica of a large specimen on display in the Natural History Museum. David Gray.
  • New technology to reveal the past. Sabine Gwosdek.
  • Dinosaur trackways in Oxfordshire. Juliet Hay.
  • Messel pit: Research excavations in a World Heritage Monument. Norbert Micklich.

Dinosaur trackways in Oxfordshire

Juliet Hay

The presence of dinosaur footprints at Ardley, 20km northeast of Oxford, were brought to the attention of staff at Oxford University Museum of Natural History in the spring of 1997. Criss-crossing the exposed surface of Jurassic limestones laid down some 168 million years ago, were the trackways of theropod and sauropod dinosaurs. Between 30 and 40 trackways were identified, some up to 200 meters in length.

Together with the Department of Earth Sciences, museum staff measured and described the site, and made moulds and casts of the better-preserved trackways. A 60 meter long replica trackway, showing evidence of both the walking and running locomotion of a theropod dinosaur, was recreated on the lawn outside the OUMNH.

This talk will describe the field techniques used to create the moulds and subsequent casts, in sometimes challenging weather conditions.

2001, York:


  • Relative humidity induced physical responses in fossil material. Adrian Doyle.
  • The amateur's perspective. Steve Etches.
  • Workshop: Colouring casts with powder pigments. Michaela Forthuber.
  • Liopleurodon and pyrite; a case study. David Gray.
  • Exhibiting techniques. Steve Hutt.
  • Caught short in the field - emergency field techniques for the unprepared. Jeff Liston.

2002, Cambridge:


  • My beautiful Laudrette - preparation with tensides. Elizabeth Biber.
  • A Virtual Tour of the Brunswick Museum. Michaela Forthuber.
  • The preparation of a new Iguanodon found in Surrey. David Gray.
  • Megafauna support versus adulteration. Nigel Larkin.
  • Preparation down under! Ian Macadie
  • The making of the geology map of Scotland. Vicen Carrio.



Adrian Doyle and Sandra Chapman

Richard Owen first observed this specimen BM(NH) OR 14553 in 1839 while it was on display in the Museum of the Natural History Society of Lancaster.

In the same year Owen referred the Lancaster specimen to Ichthyosaurus acutirostris   in his Report of British Fossil Reptiles. The specimen was then purchased by the British Museum in 1840 from the [estate?] of Messers Ripley. Richard Ripley was a surgeon of Whitby and the brother and partner of John Ripley. The two brothers were founding members of the Natural History Society of Lancaster, and among those who signed the Laws and Regulations drawn up at the inaugural meeting in the Town Hall on January 17th, 1823. Richard Ripley was the Hon. Secretary from 1827 until his death in 1857. The Annual Report of the Society for 1837 shows Richard Ripley, Whitby, as an Honourable Member, along with Richard Owen. Further purchases from Ripley brothers were made by the British Museum in 1841 and 1842.

In 1851 Gideon recorded this specimen in his book Petrifactions as being on display in the British Museum, Bloomsbury and labelled I. longipennis. Mantell also notes “the collection of ichthyosauri on display comprises 8 or 9 recognised species that have been rigorously examined and carefully determined by Professor Owen [!]

The British Museum of Natural History opened on the present site in South Kensington in1881. The specimen was transferred together with all the natural history collections from the British Museum to the British Museum of Natural History prior to 1881.

The specimen was recorded as ‘probably lost’ by Chris McGowan (1974) when he revised the Longipinnate Ichthyosaurs of the Lower Jurassic of England.

           In 2001 the specimen was re-located but was found to have lost the anterior part of the rostrum and anterior most region of the ‘basal part of the left paddle’. A photograph found in an Owen archive folio shows the specimen framed but with the skull entire and a more complete basal part of the left paddle.

Subsequent searches revealed that the specimen was repaired and conserved in the Palaeontology laboratory in 1980 and the attached notes indicate that the snout was missing at that time and that part of the right paddle was dismounted and re-assembled.

Blake, 1876. In Tate & Blake ‘The Yorkshire Lias’. Pub. Van Voost, London.

Lydekker, R., 1889. Catalogue of the fossil Reptilia and Amphibia in the British Museum (Natural History). Part II Containing the Orders Ichthyopterigia and Sauropterygia. London. 307 pp.

Mantell, G.A. 1851. Petrifactions and their teachings; or, a hand book to the gallery of organic remains of the British Museum. London. H.G.Bohn. 496pp.

McGowan, C., 1974. A Revision of the Longipinnate Ichthyosaursnof the Lowewr Jurassic of England, with Descriptions of Two New Species (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria). Life Sciences Contribution, Royal Ontario Museum no. 97.

Owen, R., Report on the British Fossil reptiles. Part I. Report British Association for the Advancement of Science, vol. 9, pp. 43-126.

Simpson. M., 1884 The Fossils of the Yorkshire Lias as described from Nature. Wheldon, London. p. 9.




MONTESDEOCA, Roberto Quevedo and CALDITO, Francisco Gomez, Spain

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A simple digital image process helps to reveal dinosaur embryonic structures from the apparently negative data coming from the CT scan of a dinosaur egg. The understanding of how this process works, will improve the work of preparators, as they will know how to better check the images obtained from such scans, and how to prepare for extraction of embryonic remains. The precise location of the bones can be determined in three dimensions. A real case is presented in which structures likely to indicate a new dinosaur embryo are shown. New technological alternatives are also presented.




MONTESDEOCA Roberto Quevedo. Spain

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Using the present state of the art of digital image software, isolated structures likely to be compatible with a new dinosaur embryo discovery are shown: thoracic vertebrae, spinal apophyses and apparent cranial structures.

Digital animations in 3-D views are also used as an important tool to increase the recognition of biological patterns. False-colour digitization can be used to study growth of these fossil embryos, opening new avenues to investigate their pattern of development, using a basic anatomical rule: the more dense the organic structure, the better it is likely to have been fossilised.




STEVENSON, Suzie and Vicen CARRIO. Edinburgh, UK

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Throughout the latter half of 2001, boxes of rocks arrived at National Museums of Scotland for the attention of the Geology Section. These rocks had been collected by hundreds of primary school pupils with the help of their teachers and countryside rangers .Schools from all over Scotland participated in this project and supplied us with local rock samples with which to construct a geological map of Scotland. This map (divided into 6 sections) is a considerable size measuring, overall, 4 metres from the Shetland Islands to the Scottish/English border. A great deal of time was spent discussing and planning the materials and procedures to be used in the construction as well as considering the final size and weight of the map which would be displayed in the museum. Late January 2002 saw the start of practical work - cutting the rocks into slices, matching the appropriate geology and fixing the pieces to the selected areas following the coastline's many inlets and islands. The prepared rocks were laid face down on templates in order to ensure a level surf ace . Areas around the rocks, representing the sea, were filled with acrylic compound. Information panels were incorporated into the structure providing samples of the most abundant rock types found in Scotland as well as the names of the schools who participated.

The Geology Map of Scotland has been successfully completed and is displayed (adjoining the "Beginnings" gallery) in the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

2004, Leicester:



The History and Preparation of the Enigmatic Dinosaur Hylaeosaurus armatus BMNH R 3375

Sandra Chapman and David Gray

Dr Gideon Mantell discovered Hylaeosaurus in 1832 while visiting a quarry in the Tilgate Forest in Sussex, southern England. The anterior part of the animal was preserved in several blocks blasted by the quarry-men. Mantell cemented the blocks together and removed the hard calcareous grit surrounding the bones to display the skeleton in the single block that we see in the literature. The anterior part of the skeleton, with perhaps a fragment of the skull, also includes a series of angular plates and dermal scales. Mantell published his description in 1833 and named the 'dinosaur' Hylaeosaurus armatus. 

Hylaeosaurus together with Iguanodon and Megalosaurus formed Richard Owen's new Order Dinosauria published in 1842. This specimen came to the British Museum as part of the Mantell Collection purchased in 1838. Of the three first named dinosaurs Hylaeosaurus has yet to be fully described although clearly an armoured dinosaur it's family relationships cannot be truly resolved until this the type specimen has been prepared.

The fossilised remains have been carefully exposed using a variety of highly skilled preparation techniques and tools. A combination of chemical (acid) and mechanical (dental mallet, air-abrasive, etc.) methods were employed on the rock where appropriate.

The block thought to contain a skull fragment was removed first and the associated cervical vertebrae were also removed in order to reveal any attached armour hidden on the under surface of the block. The preparation of this specimen will continue until all the bones have been removed together with the invertebrates and plants contained in the original slab.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Palaeontology

Adrian Doyle

Palaeontology Conservation Unit, Department of Palaeontology, The Natural

History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK; <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

The words Integrated Pest Management (or 1PM) are becoming more widely known in the discipline of conservation but how does it relate to Palaeontology?

Palaeontology collections, packaging material and the furniture itself can harbour insect and rodent pests which can lie dormant for a long time in wait for an opportunity to find a food source in a more tasty part of the museum environment such as entomological, botanical and zoological collections.

This presentation discusses several aspects of the problem, world leading strategies that are being adopted at the NHM and suggests simple ways in which all people working on collections can play a part in protecting our heritage.


Improving consolidant effectiveness: A capillarity based method for evaluating and monitoring consolidant concentration

Tim J. Fedak

The use of consolidants to stabilize and strengthen fragile fossil material plays an important role in the preparation and conservation of palaeontological specimens. Polymers such as polyvinyl acetate, dissolved in acetone or ethanol solvents, are widely used in consolidants because of their versatility and long-term stability. The concentration of dissolved polymer can be high (35% by weight), producing a thick solution useful as archival glue, or low ; <5%, providing a thin solution that can penetrate dense cortical bone. Additionally, there is often an optimal concentration that provides maximum penetration of consolidant into the object being conserved. The optimal concentration can be within a narrow range and vary from specimen to specimen, therefore determining and maintaining the effective concentration for a specimen is important. A method is presented that uses the capillary action of fluids to quantify and monitor the polymer concentrations of consolidant working solutions. The procedure is quick, inexpensive, and requires no specialized equipment. Regular assessment of working solution concentrations can increase quality and consistency of artefact conservation.           

Funding was generously provided from The Jurassic Foundation, the Nova Scotia Museum Research Grant and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


A New Preparation tool - the Split-V

James Fletcher

Palaeontology Conservation Unit, Department of Palaeontology, The Natural

History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K.

The mechanical preparation of certain types of palaeontological material using ultrasonic tools, primarily used for industrial applications, has been commonplace for over 30 years and early developments produced favourable results. Recent developments in technology have allowed for a wider range of tools that are becoming cheaper and more readily available.

The Split - V is a fine bladed ultrasonic tool, designed for removing excess solder from printed circuit boards, that can be used to remove rock and sediments in delicate preparation situations. As against other tools currently available on the market, the Split - V transmits very low vibration, cuts quickly, is very accurate and has an interchangeable handpiece that can accept a variety of blades for different purposes.

This paper is part of a major review of this tool for other applications including recent (i.e. non fossilised) zoological specimens.


Curation history and mineralisation of a highly degraded pyrite fossil collection

Emily Hodgkinson, Sue Martin and Mike Howe

British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Notts, NG12 5GG, UK <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>,

<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>, <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

A collection of Westphalian fossils was found in a catastrophically degraded state due to pyrite decay. Of the specimens, 86% had undergone total destruction and had been replaced by large volumes of oxidation products. The oxidation products were identified by SEM and XRD as romerite, coquimbite, rare elemental sulphur and possible jarosite. They are likely to have formed at <60% RH. Elemental sulphur (indicating extremely acidic, oxygen-poor conditions) has not previously been recorded as a pyrite decay product in museum specimens.

The specimens, originally stored for 40 years with no environmental controls, were transferred to more stable storage conditions twenty years ago. The damage appears to have occurred since the specimens were transferred. Recent environmental monitoring in this location has recorded a well-buffered RH of 40%, implying that under certain circumstances, catastrophic damage may occur to pyrite specimens even at low RH.

In addition to other, known factors controlling pyrite decay, a brief comparative study of Westphalian collections suggests that fossil genus (influencing pyrite microstructure) may also be significant; this will be examined in future work.


The dismantling and cleaning of the Sedgwick Museum's Iguanodon

Leslie Noé1 and Sarah Finney2

1 The Sedgwick Museum, Department of Earth Sciences, The University of

Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ; <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

2 The A.G. Brighton Conservation Unit, The Sedgwick Museum, Department of

Earth Sciences, The University of Cambridge, Madingley Rise, Cambridge CB3

0EZ; <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

A five-metre cast of the dinosaur lguanodon bernissartensis greets you as you enter the Sedgwick Museum. Presented by King Leopold II of Belgian to the University of Cambridge in 1896, it has stood in its present location for most of the last 100 years. Ongoing redevelopment of the Museum necessitated the removal of the specimen in order for new flooring to be laid, and this has given us a unique opportunity to dismantle, conserve, repaint and remount the skeleton, the first time in more than 30 years that this has been attempted.

Having dismantled the skeleton and transported it to the laboratory, the individual elements and groups of bones had to be assessed prior to cleaning. Remedial work was undertaken where the mount or previous handling had damaged the plaster. Following extensive consultation a dark brown, close to the colour of the original bones, was selected and several different types of paints assessed. Eventually a technique was developed mixing five different acrylic paints to produce a 'life-like' three-dimensional effect. However this technique proved time consuming and extremely labour intensive, pushing the limits of the window of opportunity for completing the project. This contribution will explore some of the highs and lows of undertaking this ambitious project, whilst keeping the Museum open as long as possible, the public informed, and the media interested whilst at the same time, working within the constraints of what was best for a historically important and iconic specimen.



2003, Oxford:



Long term preventative conservation of the Shropshire County Museum Service geological collections- the geological elements of the Ludlow Museum Resource Centre.

Kate Andrew, Hereford Museum & Art Gallery, Hereford

The geological collections of Shropshire County Museum Service held in Ludlow comprise some 35,000 specimens - the bulk of the collection are Silurian and early Devonian in age, and represent a valuable resource of well documented invertebrate and early vertebrate specimens collected mainly in the last forty years from Shropshire localities and bordering counties. The collection also contains around 300 specimens from the megafauna of the Siwalik Hills in India, donated in the mid nineteenth century by Colonel John Colvin and Major William Baker. A recent return to the county are the Condover Mammoth remains and associated fauna. The National Museum of Wales had kindly stored this collection for a number of years in their climate controlled store, serious damage would have occurred otherwise to this friable material. Until 2003, the collection was stored in overcrowded and very cramped conditions at a former school, climate control was limited to a hot water heating system. Recently the collection has been re-located to the purpose built Ludlow Museum Resource Centre. Over eight years of planning and preparation led up to this move, culminating in an official opening by HRH the Queen in July 2003. Central to the preparation to move was the decision to continue to use a standard series of sizes of specimen card trays but to upgrade the depth, quality, dust resistance and internal cushioning and to use a standard box size in three depths to house the card trays. However, longer term, much easier access to the collection was high on the requirement list for the scheme - dispensing with the need to lift off a stack of up to six boxes to reach the one at the bottom. It was anticipated that a researcher could well wish to see the contents of several entire drawers for comparative purposes and so the facility to remove entire drawers and to transport them easily to a research station was also required. In order to remove the possibility of carboxylic acid pollutants, and reduce costs, a metal system was specified. A combination of the card tray sizes, the easiest shape and size of drawer to carry and the weight factor led to the design of an oblong drawer, taking 2 x 3 units of the largest (6x8 inches) box size, but with enough space to cope with the drawer full of the smallest (3x2) size plus some finger space. The drawer size also had to approach an industry standard dimension to allow a manufactured adjustable shelving system to be adapted for adjustable runners. Three interchangeable depths of drawer were specified to allow most specimens to be housed in drawers plus some shelving. The number of drawers needed plus 30% of future expansion and the space these would take up in roller racking units had to be calculated even before the size of the new geology store could be specified. The size of this store in turn affected the size of the entire new building. This work was done when only around I 0% of the collection had been transferred to the new specimen trays and boxes. Thanks must be recorded to the volunteers who first counted and measured boxes and considerable co-operation of the storage companies. A tremendous input from volunteer packing teams over seven years prepared the collection for the move. The entire collection is now housed either in plastazote or acid free tissue padding in individual card trays or on larger scale ethafoam blocks.


Conservation of a Jurassic marine reptile.

Caroline Buttler, Department of Geology, National Museums & Galleries of Wales.

Routine monitoring of the palaeontology collections identified a ichthyosaur specimen that on first examination seemed to need a small amount of remedial work. What was to be a brief job turned into a major conservation project uncovering Victorian deception and resulted in a story that attracted international media interest. It was revealed that the ichthyosaur skeleton was not one animal but a composite of at least two different individuals and different species. 

Examination of a Jurassic ichthyosaur, in storage in the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, found extensive deterioration of the plaster mount caused by movement of the wooden frame. This had caused parts of the specimen to become dislodged and there was concern that in time they might become lost. A major conservation project developed and it was revealed that the specimen had undergone significant reconstruction when it had been first prepared. It was in fact a composite of two different species of ichthyosaur, with many bones relocated. The original damaged mount, prepared for wall display in the nineteenth century, was removed and a new lightweight support system was devised for the separate fragments of the ichthyosaur. This would allow it to be displayed as a composite specimen retaining some of the reconstructions. The new mount had to be horizontal rather than vertical and enable individual fragments to be removed for study. For support, the lower half of each of the individual fragments was moulded in EpopastTM, an epoxy/glass-fibre laminating paste. The moulds were fixed to a lightweight rigid board, the fragments placed in them, and a removable acrylic cover devised. Opportunity was taken to demonstrate the work to the public, and it attracted significant media attention. The project has resulted in a greater knowledge of the specimen and the work of Victorian preparators, and the ichthyosaur has been displayed for the first time in over 30 years.


Mechanical Preparation Techniques -A review of modern equipment.

Adrian M. Doyle, Conservation Unit, The Natural History Museum, London.

The development of palaeontological specimens has come a long way since the days of hammer and chisel and electric engravers. Modern laboratory, engineering and dental tools provide simple, quick and highly effective ways of removing a variety of clays, sediments and rock utilising percussive and ultrasonic effects. This will form part of a major review of mechanical and chemical preparation techniques for the laboratory as well as on-site practice over the coming two years.


Running noses -Lifesize Reconstruction of Nasobema lvricum.

Michaela Forthuber, Staatliches Naturhistorisches Museum, Braunschweig, Germany.

Many extinct animal species have left only few remains of their former existence. The Snouters (Rhinogradentia) divide this fate. Just a few decades ago they still lived on the Hi-lay Archipelago in the Pacific, but then the bomb hit. During an atomic test the complete archipelago sank, completely vanishing with all the snouters. But the memory of this unusual fauna shall not be forgotten: In the talk the most important representatives of that group of mammals are shown, with all their remarkable biology. Finally there is a report about the lifesize reconstruction of the probably most well-known representative: Nasobema lyricum.


The preliminary preparation of a Tendaguru brachiosaur.

David Gray, Conservation Unit, The Natural History Museum, London.

Some or the most famous dinosaurs of Africa were found from the Late Jurassic ofTendaguru in southern Tanzania. About 30 blocks of brachiosaur material need to be opened up and prepared. How does one approach the preparation of this radioactive dinosaur material? The Health and Safety implications and precautions will be discussed, as well as the methods used in the initial preparation.


Constructing a diorama: the landscape of North Hesse State about 250 million years ago.

Susanne Henssen, Palaeo Werkstatt, Switzerland.

In 1997 the Museum Korbach decided to integrate a diorama into their new exhibition on the Upper Permian in North Hesse State. The diorama, which is 12 metres square, shows what can be reconstructed from the poorly-preserved fossil remains found in the Korbach fissure filling. This lecture describes the planning process and the compromises that had to be made. It explains how a diorama should be constructed in order to produce a three-dimensional effect, and why it was not possible in this case. It discusses the modelling of the landscape with water pit and animal tracks, and the experience of working with a lighting technician more used to doing disco road shows. Finally, it shows the finished diorama, and the associated light show. Details of the actual model making were described in the 1997 SPPC meeting, and are not included in this talk.


Building a model of Psittacosaurus on the basis of a beautifully preserved specimen.

Bernd Herkner & Claudia Weissbrot, Palaeoanthropology, Senckenberg Research Institute, Germany.

The Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt has a beautifully preserved specimen of Psittacosaurus, possessing skin impressions as well as stomach contents. On the basis of this specimen a Iife size model has been reconstructed for the display.


Conserving proboscidean tusks.

Nigel Larkin.

Ancient proboscidean tusks, unless found well preserved in the frozen tundra of northern latitudes, are often problematical specimens. The nature of their internal structure means that they are often found in a poorly preserved and fragile state, with very little internal strength. This is compounded by the fact that they are also relatively long and thin but heavy, which poses specific mechanical problems meaning they are difficult to excavate without damage being inflicted. In addition the nature of the dense dentine of tusks means that even if they are excavated successfully, they are prone to deterioration and ultimately disintegration in storage areas that provide less than ideal environmental conditions.

However, because of the common depiction of elephants and mammoths in popular culture, and the general fondness people have for them, fossil tusks which are so obviously mammoth or elephantine in nature can be very popular specimens for exhibitions -they have an immediate and recognisable iconographic appeal. The costs of the satisfactory recovery, conservation and display of tusk material, however, can reach suitably mammoth proportions. Should all tusk material have money and time lavished on them? Should such expenditure only be undertaken if the conditions in which the specimen is to be kept are suitably stable? Should we re-bury tusks where we found them for safekeeping? Or simply photograph them and throw them in a skip -as has often been suggested? Examples will be given of the excavation and conservation treatment of proboscidean tusk material from four quite different sites: the 70,000 year old Neanderthal site recently discovered in Norfolk; the 450,000 year old gravels ofSwanscombe, Kent; the West Runion Freshwater Bed in Norfolk (6550-720,000 years old); and the 8 million year old deposits in the deserts of Abu Dhabi.

The excavation and conservation techniques used - both successful and those limited in their success -will be detailed, and conflicts of interest experienced during the work will be highlighted. Many of the techniques, problems and solutions shown will be relevant to the excavation and conservation of other large, fragile, fossil or subfossil specimens.


Palaeo Art Exhibition.

Robert Nicholls.

An exhibition of paintings and drawings illustrating prehistoric life and environments. One view will be images depicting dinosaurs, mosasaurs and sharks, mega beasts, giant crocodiles, and a scene from Cretaceous Antarctica. The centrepiece will be two paintings produced for the Creswell Crags Heritage Trust, "The Engraver" and "The Storyteller." Earlier this year, engravings, 12,000 years old, were discovered inside the limestone caves of Creswell Gorge. "The Engraver" and "The Storyteller'' give an insight into the life of the palaeolithic humans that lived in the caves and decorated the walls of their home with primitive and beautiful palaeo' art.


From Dragons to Sparrows. The media and the evolution of the dinosaur image.

Luis Rey, Palaeoillustion, London.

A history lesson on prejudice against science. How the traditional, iconic image of the Dinosauria as represented at a mass communication level may have distorted, hindered or slowed down the popularisation of new fossil discoveries and scientific research. The psychology of The Beast: from the initial image of gigantic reptiles compared to mammals and birds to the stagnation of dinosaur studies from the I 920's to the l960's, the time span that consolidated the stereotype of sluggish, obsolete, oversized and extinct lizards. The poster will also include a mini exhibition showing some basic patterns on how to restore the modern image of the dinosaur and keep the pace of change within current palaeontological research. With comparative examples from the artist and other illustrative examples(old and new).


Old glue and old bones, or how the 'Leeds Collection' (c1865-1917) was stuck together.

Leslie Noe1 , Sarah Finney1 & JeffListon2

  1. Sedgwick Museum, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge, 2. Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow.

Historical palaeontological collections are of immense importance to research scientists, but can be problematic for preparators and conservators as the materials used in the past are often unknown. The historically important fossil vertebrates and invertebrates of the 'Leeds Collection', for example, were collected from the soft clays around Peterborough, with many specimens found in numerous pieces. These pieces were rejoined, often to form beautifully preserved 3-dimensional skeletons, however, the exact nature of the glue(s) used has remained elusive. Following extensive archival research, Alfred Leeds original glue recipe has been traced and here we resurrect a glue that was used more than a century ago. This research that has direct impact on the care of the 'Leeds Collection' in numerous museums in the U.K., mainland Europe and North America.


Virtual fossils: 3D digital reconstructions from serial sections.

Mark Sutton 1, Derek E.G. Briggs2, David J. Siveter-3, Derek J. Siveter4 ·

  1. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, 2. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Vale University, USA, 3. Department of Geology, University of Leicester, 4. University Museum of Natural History, University of Oxford.

Fossils preserved in three dimensions are inherently more informative than those squashed onto a bedding plane, but can be challenging lo work with. Those that cannot be extracted whole from the matrix by either mechanical or chemical preparation are especially problematic. For at least a century the standard approach to the study of this class of material has involved serial sawing (or grinding), producing a set of photographs or diagrams of discrete 'slices' through the fossil. However, using this data to visualise three­dimensional structures has always proved difficult. Modem computing techniques, in particular the SPIERS software package developed by the authors to reconstruct three-dimensional invertebrate fossils from the Herefordshire Lagerstatte, now provide a practical way of working with slice-image data. Tools are provided for 'virtual preparation' of datasets, and the system generates interactive onscreen three­dimensional models which can be manipulated, dissected, and viewed in stereo if required. This viewing S}stem allows the user to undertake full descriptive analyses of 'virtual fossils' on computing systems of modest power, and provides a mode of working which is in most respects preferable to working with real isolated specimens. Models can also be exported for high-quality imaging, used to generate video files viewable on any computer, or used to generate physical three-dimensional replicas through rapid­prototyping technologies.


2005, London:

  • The Blaschka Glass Models - The Conservation Issues. Bolton.
  • Cleaning Natural History Material with Lasers. Lorraine Cornish.
  • Preventive Conservation; barrier films, anoxia and fossils. Adrian Doyle.
  • Lifesize Reconstruction of Longisquama insignis. Michaela Forthuber
  • A Life of Grime: Excavating 20th Century Deposits. Nigel Larkin.
  • And here's one I prepared earlier. Simon Moore
  • A Pliosaur Travels: The Transport and Packaging of a Unique Cretaceous Marine Reptile from Northern South America. Leslie Noè.


  • Palaeoart exhibition. Luis Rey.
  • Important plesiosaurs in the National Museum of Ireland (Natural History). Adam Smith.
  • Analysis of spheniscid tarsometatarsus and humerus morphological variability using DAISY automated digital image recognition. Stig Walsh.
  • Finding the Minimum Sample Richness (MSR) for multivariate analyses: implications for palaeoecology. Michael Bedward.
  • A re-description of the postcranial skeleton of the primitive stegosaur Huayangosaurus taibai. Susie Maidment.
  • Palaeoart exhibition. Bob Nicholls.
  • Lured by the rings: growth structures in Leedsichthys. Jeff Liston.
  • Skull evolution in the Rhynchocephalia (Diapsida: Lepidosauria). Jones.
  • Kimmeridge fishes. Steve Etches.

And here's one I prepared earlier

Simon Moore

Japanese tissues are used widely by conservators, especially by those who work with paper. Until recently their use had not been applied to Natural Sciences. This article shows how they can be used to create tidy and effectively strong repairs and gap-fills for the repair of taxidermy specimens.

Lured By The Rings: Growing Pains of a Big Dead Fish.

Liston,J.J.1, Steel,L.2 and Challands,T.J.3

1Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow < This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >, 2 Dinosaur Isle Museum, Isle of Wight & School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth < This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> and 3Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol < This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >

The pachycormid fish Leedsichthys problematicus is known from the Callovian of England, France and Germany, as well as the Oxfordian of Chile. In February 2001, a series of apparent growth rings were discovered upon part of the holotype specimen of Leedsichthys problematicus (NHM P6921). Such rings have been known from contemporary fish since van Leeuwenhoek (1684), and have a role in estimating the age of fish populations in the fisheries industry, through analysis of otoliths, teeth and scales. In contrast, none of these three components have been identified in Leedsichthys, the rings occurring in the splanchnocranium and the appendicular skeleton. The structures observed here are easily discernible with the naked eye, at up to 1mm thick with striking colouration. Comparison with similar skeletal elements of the relatively complete Glasgow specimen (GLAHM V3363, ‘Big Meg’) confirmed that this was not an isolated occurrence, and the discovery, later in 2001, of a new specimen of this animal (PCM F174, 'Ariston') resulted in a plentiful supply of test material. Comparative analysis of material from all three of these specimens was undertaken, to investigate this phenomenon, in terms of the cyclicity of the colour patterns, the histology of the bone growth and the variations in geochemical signals within each line.

Institutional Abbreviations: NHM = Natural History Museum (London); GLAHM = Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow; PCM = Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery.

2006, Paris:

  • Finding the Minimum Sample Richness (MSR) for multivariate analyses: implications for palaeoecology. Michael Bedward.


Finding the Minimum Sample Richness (MSR) for multivariate analyses: implications for palaeoecology

Michael Bedward and Kenny J Travouillon

Many techniques have been developed to estimate species richness and beta diversity. Those techniques, dependent on sampling, require abundance or presence/absence data. Palaeontological data is by nature incomplete (Hammer & Harper 2006), and presence/absence data is often the only type of data that can be used to provide an estimate of ancient biodiversity. We propose a new technique (using multivariate analyses) to assess whether palaeontological presence/absence data are statistically representative of original life assemblages. Artificially generated species lists are used to make parent and subset lists which are then compared using a cluster analysis to find the minimum sample richness (MSR) with a 95% confidence of correctly clustering the parent and subset lists. Several commonly used similarity indexes (Dice, Jaccard, Simpson and Raup-Crick) were investigated. Of these, the Raup-Crick index required the lowest MSR, i.e. it performed best at correctly clustering subset lists with their respective parents at low sample species richness. MSR can be found by our graphs for presence/absence data provided absolute species richness and the beta diversity can be estimated.


2007, Glasgow:

The rather naive idea of forming a museum on the Jurassic Coast

Steve Etches

The problems involved in setting up a charitable trust, obtaining funding and finding a suitable site to try and ensure the long-term security of a specialised collection.



Fake Rock, Real Sand: The making of the exhibition 'Sahara - living desert'

Michaela Forthuber, Staatliches Naturhistorisches Museum, Braunschweig, Germany (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


In 2006, the State Museum of Natural History in Braunschweig, Germany, hosted a special exhibition on the Sahara desert, focussed on the animals and plants and their adaptations to the environmental challenges of the desert climate, the change from a green desert in former times to today's ocean of sand, plus an additional component on how human beings are able to live there.

The way that the impression of a desert was achieved by using styrofoam, tile mortar and real Sahara sand to build an artificial rock face and a sand dune area is described.

Images of the finished exhibition are also shown.



The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Preparation from the Wild West

Cindy Howells, National Museum of Wales


Fossils on sale at trade shows offer a unique opportunity to view differing styles and standards of preparation. The Tucson Show in Arizona is considered to be the largest such ‘gem’ show in the world, and the variety and quality of specimens is unsurpassed. Equally, it is a market for replicas, and in some cases, fakes. The talk will illustrate a small selection of the best and worst that can be seen by a visitor to this show.



The virtual and physical preparation of the Collard Plesiosaur

Nigel R. Larkin, Norwich Castle Museum and Natural-History-Conservation.Com


The 'Collard Plesiosaur', found in 2003 in Bridgwater Bay on the Somerset coast, has been described as 'probably the best preserved and most scientifically valuable fossil plesiosaur to have been found in the UK for at least 150 years, possibly ever' (Richard Forrest, SPPC/SVPCA 2005). The skeleton is almost complete and variably-mineralised.

The skeleton (possibly a juvenile Rhomaleosaur) was preserved in Lower Liassic Kilve Shales - a fine-grained, thinly laminated rock containing little or no cement. Held together by compression, this lithology is notoriously susceptible to fluctuations in humidity, severely compromising the integrity of specimens once dry.

The priorities for the project were to arrest shale delamination caused by environmental fluctuations and to prepare the specimen for research. The specimen appeared to be well fossilised in a homogeneous, un-cemented matrix, offering excellent potential for X- radiography. Therefore before preparation commenced the specimen was X-rayed and CT- scanned with stunning results, despite some of the limb bones not being well mineralised. This virtual preparation helped to inform the subsequent physical preparation of the material.

Investigations were undertaken to select the most suitable tools, materials and techniques to conserve and prepare the specimen. Attempts to consolidate matrix samples with the methacrylate co-polymer Paraloid B72 were generally unsuccessful - the shale layers distorted and delaminated. However, B72 was successfully applied to the sides of the specimen blocks providing a humidity seal.            

Mechanical preparation commenced with the removal of underburden, greatly reducing the specimen's weight. The use of a scalpel proved to be the most appropriate technique for developing its surface and exposing the skeleton, removing one paper-thin layer of shale at a time.



Palaeontological preservation with 21 Century documentation: using photogrammetry to produce highly detailed 3D image models

Neffra A. Matthews and Brent H. Breithaupt

USDOI-Bureau of Land Management, National Science and Technology Center, Denver, CO 80225, USA (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Geological Museum, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 Photogrammetry has long been considered an excellent means for capturing three- dimensional data about a subject. In the past photogrammetry was not widely used in palaeontology due to the need for expensive metric cameras, analytical equipment, and technical expertise. However, dramatic technological advancements have resulted in a simplification of the process for capturing overlapping stereoscopic photographs. Affordable, quality digital cameras, high performance laptops, and cost effective software allow for the production of 3D data both in the field and lab. The 3D surface data (x, y, z points) are generated from photographs, thus image textures can be registered to the surface with the quality, reliability, and authenticity necessary for scientific use and visualization. The resulting 3D image models can be utilized in a variety of softwares where vertical exaggeration and scale can be manipulated to enhance features difficult to see or measure in the field (Matthews et al., 2006). This strengthens the accuracy of measurements (e.g., length, width, depth) by overcoming the biases of topography, accessibility, and lighting (Breithaupt et al., 2004). In addition, more rigorous morphometric comparisons can be conducted from a multidimensional digital data set. These 3D image models will not degrade during handling, transportation, or repeated analysis and can be used to generate solid model prototypes, and for virtual cataloguing on the web. Taking stereoscopic photographs today not only preserves the specimens into the future, but it can also be used to travel back in time, as monoscopic historical photographs can be incorporated into present projects for analysis.



Emergency remedial conservation of homeless mammoth material

Emma-Louise Nicholls

Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Through a peculiar series of events I managed to find myself with a box of mammoth material falling apart in my lab. The box contained numerous tooth and tusk fragments, wrapped in newspaper and placed into separate plastic sandwich bags. As a result, the material was in dire need of conservation work. The most effective form of remedial conservation was decided to be a mixture of Paraloid B72 as an adhesive and glass beads as a polymer filler in order to stabilise the material and to prevent further deterioration. I report here on the numerous problems faced throughout the work, and the overall outcome and level of success achieved.







2008, Dublin.



A preliminary investigation into the removal and remedial conservation of labels from fossil specimens

Felicity Bolton and Paolo Viscardi

Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Labels associated with fossil specimens contain explicit and inherent information. Explicit information commonly reports species and locality, but collector name and other secondary data are often omitted. Inherent information such as handwriting and label style can provide information about the collector. Inherent but ambiguous information, such as undefined numbers, may relate to notebooks or locations, which can prove valuable in reconstructing a context for the specimens. It is important that these data remain with the specimen and remain in a fit state for subsequent curatorial research.

Unfortunately, labels deteriorate over time, with ink fading, adhesives failing and physical and chemical damage leading to fragmentation. In order to maintain explicit information new labels can be added, but the old labels also need to be stabilised in order to preserve inherent information. It falls to curatorial staff and conservators to preserve labels in situ or to salvage and repair those that are detaching and have deteriorated.

This study highlights the curatorial importance of retrieving information and investigates remedial conservation methods for the safe removal, repair and storage of labels from specimens – with examples of those currently being conserved for the refurbishment of the Horniman Museum Natural History Gallery.


Environmental damage to palaeontological specimens

Adrian M. Doyle and Ana Citores

Palaeontology Conservation Unit, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

It has long been established that inappropriate environmental conditions cause damage to palaeontological specimens but whilst there is much anecdotal evidence there are few recorded facts.

Initial research using crude one-channel dimensional displacement probes and saturated salt solutions to create various humilities, shows that so long as certain humidity thresholds are not exceeded, some specimens can return to their original dimensions: However this is time consuming for the operator and not an effective or a reliable way to gather data.

A recent purchase of mobile three-channel radio telemetric displacement transducers and a micro-climate generator are being used to help identify the relationship between environmental change and physical changes in specimens (such as cracking and splitting), in particular sub-fossil bone which is very vulnerable to fluctuating humidity.

This project is helping us understand the relationship of deterioration to inappropriate environments including the effectiveness of existing HVAC systems, irreversible damage and the stability of conservation treatments including consolidants and fillers.

The equipment will not only enable us to identify collections which are vulnerable but also those specimens on display that are also vulnerable and to feed this information into collections standards policies and recommendations.


A new suit for the Dublin pliosaur

Scott Moore-Fay

Palaeontology Conservation Unit, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

The Palaeontology Conservation Unit (NHM, London) was contracted by the National Museum of Ireland to undertake the preparation and conservation of the type skull of the Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni. This Jurassic Pliosaur remains to this day the largest complete pliosaur ever discovered, and is currently known from this single complete specimen. Discovered in 1848 near Kettleness Yorkshire, this specimen eventually found its way to Dublin, where it was displayed intermittently from 1922-1962. It has remained in storage ever since.

Following the skulls’ arrival in London a full assessment of its condition was carried out. The skull had been set into a mixture of plaster, bricks, and pieces of sandstone. Much of the skulls’ original detail was obscured by previous repairs and pyrite treatments. The skull had broken into two large pieces: the cranium and the rostrum along with numerous smaller pieces. Preparation revealed many interesting details of the original Victorian preparation and mounting.

The skulls’ weight, which exceeds 60kg, made it very difficult to turn over making preparation and research difficult and potentially dangerous. To overcome this problem a two- piece epoxy supporting jacket was built up during preparation and provided support for the specimen throughout its subsequent transportation, examination and storage.


Blood, sweat and scars for life: the complications of comparative shark material

Emma-Louise Nicholls and Charlie Underwood

School of Earth Sciences, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Shark and ray skeletons are comprised of prismatic cartilage that is enclosed in a mineralised layer of calcium apatite tesserae. This skeletal structure gives sharks robustness and flexibility in life, but is susceptible to decay and disarticulation after death resulting in the low preservation potential of shark skeletal material. Subsequently the vast majority of fossil shark material comprises isolated teeth. Although potentially identifiable to specific level, identification of isolated shark teeth is complicated by monognathic, dignathic, sexual and ontogenetic heterodonty. Although most Post-Palaeozoic fossil sharks have living relatives, the dentitions of many modern taxa are very poorly known hampering easy comparison. It is therefore essential that comparative material of modern dentitions is available for use in untangling the palaeontological taxonomic problems. Here we investigate the different methods used to extract modern jaws and skulls and demonstrate the numerous complications of cooking, bleaching, distortion, afflictions to the olfactory organs, adhesives and safety issues.

Please note: All specimens described here were bi-products obtained from fish markets and were landed whole for human consumption.

Dingerkus, G., Séret, B. and Guilbert, E. 2005. Multiple prismatic calcium phosphate layers in the jaws of present-day sharks (Chondrichthyes; Selachii). Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 47, 38-40.


A Triceratops skull in Birmingham at 50 and 100: discovered 1908, transported 1958

Leslie F. Noè1 and Arthur R. I. Cruickshank2

1Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham B4 7XG, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), 2Department of Geology, University of Leicester, University Avenue, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Thinktank, the Birmingham Science Museum, displays a skull of the horned dinosaur, Triceratops collected in 1908 in Montana, USA, and which arrived at the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery (BM&AG) in 1958. This contribution thereby marks a double anniversary, and will detail what is known about the source and collection of the specimen; how it was acquired by Birmigham Museum; its packing, transport and associated costs; and how it is currently displayed at Thinktank.

The Birmingham Triceratops was discovered on 9th August 1908 by a team including Barnum Brown, Peter Kaisen and C.H. Lambert for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York. The skull was collected from the Latest Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of Montana, although the site of recovery is now covered by the Fort Peck Reservoir. Following prolonged correspondence between Edwin H. Colbert (Curator or Reptiles and Amphibians, AMNH) and L. Bilton (Keeper, BM&AG) the skull was purchased by BM&AG for US$2000, plus the costs of transport. The skull was crated up by AMNH staff and transported on the Cunard liner Sylvania in 1958. Following customs clearance at Liverpool, the skull was transported to Birmingham, and the crate lifted into the Museum through a third story window. Following instructions provided by the AMNH, the skull was unpacked and mounted on a pre-prepared metal armature and became the centrepiece of Birmingham’s new Evolution gallery, accompanied by many specimens from the Natural Sciences collections. In 2000, the Triceratops skull was transferred to Thinktank for display and it remains a central pillar of the Wild Life gallery. The Triceratops will feature prominently in the planned redisplay of the Natural Sciences collections, provisionally entitled ‘Changing Planet’.

The foresight of the City Museum in acquiring of this specimen has made Birmingham one of the few cities in the UK to display a stunning, virtually complete and three-dimensionally preserved original skull of Triceratops. It remains an iconic and resonant specimen, much loved by visitors old and young alike.


The effectiveness of Synocryl 9123s during the acid preparation process

Melissa Schiele

Palaeontology Conservation Unit, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

This research looks into the chemical synocryl 9123s, formally known as Bedacryl 122x (Cray Valley) which has been used at the Natural History Museum in London as a protective resin during the acid bathing process. However, its integrity is now being questioned, and an alternative synocryl (9122x) may be replacing the older synocryl and tests are being carried out in order to justify the change.

The solvents used during this research were acetone, toluene and butanone. Various methods of microscopy (SEM, FTIR, and ZYGO) were enlisted in order to get a detailed look at how the synocryl interacts with the surface of the bone.

This research is very important as it would seem that the old synocryl 9123s has reached the end of its workable life and it has an international significance in the world of Palaeontological conservation, as poly butyl methacrylates are commonly used in acid preparation (including Acryloid B-67).


Fossil preparation skills: available information for both ‘amateur’ and pro.

Remmert Schouten

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol, Avon, UK, BS8 1RJ (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

In the literature and other resources more information on preparation techniques is growing quickly. This is to be encouraged as there is relatively little out there. The growth in available material is helped by resources such as the www, and many in the trade have long argued for this. The growth is largely explained by initiatives such as of the SVP preparators meeting where posters, talks and other resources are now collated in a collective, publicly accessible space. Much useful detail is available already despite the fact publications number only 20 or so. A helpful list of titles of past presentations in the Preparators session is a good guide to other expertise out there. In the past there have been helpful initiatives before like the Paleotechniques volume aimed at the professional preparator as well as guide books on how to collect fossils aimed at the wider audience. Other helpful techniques can be found throughout the literature included in the ‘methods’ section. Presumably the general public will find it difficult to find simple guidelines towards preparing fossils. Arguably there is need for teaching resources illustrating the basics for minimal field prep, Airscribe use, Airabrasive use and minimal field preparation. Potentially, this provides huge benefits for the palaeontological community as a whole, both academic as well as ‘amateur’. These theoretical benefits and examples of what kind of information out there are discussed and the audience will be invited to give feedback.

Barker, P, .1977. Techniques of Archaeological Excavation.

Camp, C.L. & Dallas Hanna, G. 1937. Methods in Paleontology.

Feldmann, R.M, Chapman, R.E. & Hannibal, J.T. 1989. Paleotechniques.

Leiggi, P. & May, P. 1994. Vertebrate Paleontological Techniques (Volume One).

Sutton, M.Q. & Arkush, B.S. 1996. Archaeological Laboratory Methods, An Introduction.




The pilot conservation of two Blaschka glass models of micro-organisms

Liesa Stertz

32 Crescent Grove, Clapham, London SW4 7AH, UK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

The talk reflects the examination and treatment of two Victorian glass models of micro- organisms made by the German glass artisans Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka. The highly aesthetic objects are part of a collection held at the Natural History Museum in London and have been chosen for pilot conservation, due to their relatively poor condition. The two models consist of glass, organic materials and occasional copper wire. Major conservation issues were identified as breakages and detachments of extremely fragile glass spines, the partially unstable glass compositions and consequent deterioration, the presence of a water-soluble coating, copper wire corrosion and inappropriate previous storage conditions. Characterisation of the original materials and their deterioration processes was carried out using a range of analytical facilities available at the museum, allowing the development of suitable treatments. These included a two-stage cleaning process, stabilisation of copper corrosion, reattachment of broken spines with Paraloid B72/Fynebond and reversible remounting of fragments using micro-tubing. A series of tests was carried out to assess the possibility of using 3D CAT and laser scanning for documentation. Recommendations are also made for future storage, conservation and research.


2009, Bristol (SVP, SVPCA and SPPC meeting):

Adhesives, choice and reason:

Adhesives, choice and reason, Velson Horie

Adhesives, choice and reason, Amy Davidson

Adhesives, choice and reason, Chris Collins

Adhesives, choice and reason, Suzanne Henssen

The case for Paraloid B72 as an adhesive, consolidant and gap­filler, Nigel Larkin  

The consolidation of Pleistocene Mammals from the North Sea between the British Islands and The Netherlands, Dick Mol

Adhesives, Choice and Reason

Amy Davidson, Senior Principal Preparator

Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History New York, NY USA

Here she will focus on the history of one specimen of Shuvuuia deserti from its retrieval from the Gobi in 1994, preparation, discoveries in the lab, analysis, exhibition, accidental damage and recent repairs in 2009. The use of Butvar B-76 (polyvinyl butyral) and cyanoacrylates on this specimen will be reviewed, as well as the use of archival housings as an alternative to adhesives.


Adhesives, Choice and Reason

Suzanne Henssen Freelance Fossil Preparator

Henssen PalaeoWerkstatt, Goch, Germany


In her presentation she gives an overview about the challenge to properly conserve sub-fossil material and the use of polyethylenglycol as a specialised solution. Based on an example of a mammoth tusk which was found 2005 in Switzenand, she explains the correct treatment after discovery, conservation with polyethylenglycol and how it is presented in the exhibition. A review follows of some of the oldest results that have been achieved about 30 years ago by using the polyethylenglycol method.



The case for Paraloid B72 as an adhesive, consolidant and gap­filler

Nigel Larkin, Natural History Conservation

www. natural-history-conservation. com

Depending on the material requiring remedial conservation, the methacrylate co-polymer Paraloid B72 can be a very good choice. Not just because it has proven stability and great reversibility but because of its versatility. It can be used straight from the tube as an adhesive, or mixed to the exact consistency required for use as an adhesive or consolidant -with a variety of solvents. With the addition of a suitable stable filler it can also be usefully applied as a gap-filler.

Using just one product in these different ways on the same specimen has its advantages. In the immediate term, it bonds very well to itself. It will also remain stable: if you use more than one product on a specimen you really cannot be sure of the long-term stability of the chemical cocktail you are creating.

The West Runton Mammoth Conservation Project will be presented as an example posing particular problems, along with some other palaeontological challenges.



The consolidation of Pleistocene Mammals from the North Sea between the British Islands and The Netherlands

Dick Mol, Research associate, Natural History Museum, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

he southern Bight of the North Sea between the British Islands and the Netherlands is extremely rich in remains of Pleistocene and Early Holocene mammals, both terrestrial and marine mammals. These remains are trawled from the seabed by fishermen trawling for flatfish. Most of these remains, tons and tons have been brought every year ashore by the fishermen, are in good state of preservation. The remains originate from the entire Pleistocene (2.6 million -11.500 BP) and their state of preservation depends on their geological age. Those from the Early Pleistocene are heavily mineralized and produce a high­pitched sound when tapped on with a hard object. Those from the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene are barely mineralized. These fossils need a special treatment to keep them in good condition for research and museum purposes.

Dick Mol from the Natural History museum is collecting the by-catches of the fishing trawlers in the harbors of the Netherlands as well as doing his own expeditions on the sea to collect the fossils from well-known localities.



2010, Cambridge:



Infacol - if it’s good enough for babies, it’s good enough for ammonites.

Christian Baars

 A project to conserve, cast and repackage a collection of over 160 Jurassic ammonites from Dorset is currently being undertaken. The specimens are all cited and figured and include holotypes and paratypes. They had been previously consolidated with the acrylic resin Bedacryl, and some are embedded in plaster. The Bedacryl has become tacky with age and attracted dirt and dust. Pyrite is present in the rock and some ammonites are affected by pyrite decay. The specimens were cleaned, treated for pyrite decay if required, reconsolidated with Paraloid B72 and re-packaged. Due to the scientific importance of the collection, casts were made to ensure a record of the morphology should any further deterioration occur. Following re-consolidation, silicone moulds were made of the specimens. The intricate nature of the moulds made casting more difficult than originally anticipated. Jesmonite was used for the casts but it was difficult to avoid the formation of bubbles. After some experimentation it was found that adding some Infacol (“formulated to relieve wind, infant colic and griping pain”) significantly reduced the number of bubbles in the casts.


The joy of steel: How to master your awkward fossil in the field.

Nigel R Larkin

 Occasionally, fossils can be extremely big, very heavy, or horribly fragile. Sometimes they may present all three problems at once - the most problematic of which is fragile - and getting them from the field to the lab can be a challenging process. Polyeurathane foam jackets are a quick but messy solution and should no longer be used on health and safety grounds. Plaster jacketing is a well known and very useful technique but on its own is not always up to the job. Splints are frequently added to plaster jackets, but often in an ad-hoc manner. A very secure method is to bolt together a rigid cage of channelled galvanised steel around the specimen in the field and secure it sturdily to the plaster jacket. This gives rigidity in three dimensions, protects vulnerable elements and provides specific and secure places to attach cables or straps to a crane. The channelled steel and appropriate nuts and bolts do not rust, can be cleaned and stored indefinitely and re-used almost endlessly. Most importantly, if assembled competently the structure will allow a very large, heavy and fragile specimen to be lifted and transported much more safely than would otherwise be the case.


Mechanical and chemical preparation methods used on the lower Eocene cementstone concretions from the Mo-Clay of northern Denmark

Frank Osbaeck

 For five years Museernes Bevaringscenter in Skive have worked on several rare specimens from the Mo-Clay Formation of Fur and Mors resembling the fauna of the London Clay Formation. Foremost an almost complete tarpon (115cm), one of the best preserved in the world, which was prepared combining acid and mechanical methods. To start with the specimen weighed a tonne. This specimen's matrix was in part extremely delicate, and would break down if water or acid was applied. The skull of the tarpon is 3D preserved and due to a fracture down the middle presents a fully prepared brain cavity. It went for the exhibit after 1 1/2 years of preparation. The new preparation of an old specimen of a two meter long leatherback turtle has yieled many new details as well as possible soft tissue structures. Lastly I will present two small turtles with exceptional preservation- the last one with ossified horn covering of the skeletal plates.


Preservation potential of elasmobranchs

Trine Sørensen

 Different parts of the elasmobranch skeleton are unevenly represented in the fossil record. Fossilization of different types of tissue depends on structure and chemistry of the tissue and of a number of taphonomic factors. A single vertebra and fragments of gill rakers of a shark, Cetorhinus sp., from the Late Miocene Gram Formation was examined for variations in mineral contents within the tissues and in the surrounding clay sediment. During preparation a systematic, visual description was performed and samples were taken for microscopy and XRD mineralogical analyses and for SEM/EDX and EMPA geochemical analyses. The vertebra and gill rakers are composed of apatite-minerals containing fluorine with resemblance to recent shark skeletons. Apatite in the sediment below the vertebra may in part be due to dissolution. Authigenic minerals such siderite, calcite and Mg-calcite are present in both fossil and sediment in a pattern related to the vertebra. Pyrite is evenly distributed. Several parameters increase the preservation potential of the shark. These include the precipitation of carbonate-concretions around and within the vertebra, secondary calcification of the vertebra, the closely packed structure of the surface of the gill rakers, a calm sea, a high sedimentation rate and the right geochemical conditions.




2011, Lyme Regis:



Bringing sea dragons back to life: 200 years on from Anning, Conybeare and De la Beche.

Mark Evans

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, 53 New Walk, Leicester, UK, LEI TEA

The Geological Galleries at New Walk Museum, Leicester, are being redisplayed. The main objective of the new gallery is to present examples of the evidence and methodology underlying the reconstruction of extinct organisms, focussing on charismatic dinosaurs and marine reptiles. Harking back to Henry Thomas De la Beche's Duria Antiguior, reconstructions of the living organisms and their environments were to be a vital part of the gallery's interpretation. We commissioned palaeoartist Robert Nicholls to produce paintings and reconstruction drawings which produced a valuable collaboration between artist and curator.

However, the expectations of the modern museum visitor have been raised. We therefore decided to produce a computer-generated animation of the Oxford Clay. Robert Nicholls sculpted maguettes of 7 animals from the Oxford Clay and these were subseguently laser scanned. Our initial idea was to commission an animated video which would be played on a loop and projected onto an overhead screen, so that the visitor becomes immersed in the environment. However, Leicester-based virtual reality specialists Maelstrom suggested an alternative where the scene is rendered in realtime so that the visitor never sees the same seguence of events. The system also allows for extra interpretation on the animal in focus to be displayed on a separate monitor, and for multiple views of the scene to be rendered. The visitor can control an interactive display and zoom in and out. Sample footage will be presented.


Accessing Palaeontology in a Local Museum

Philip Hadland

Canterbury City Council Museums Service

Kent is a region of surprising geological heritage and a diverse range of fossil deposits can be found within the county. Canterbury's Museums feature fossil collections, dating back to the early days of palaeontology reflecting the spectacular variety of collecting opportunities available. For several years Canterbury's Museum service has exploited a variety of ways to engage the public with their local geology and the science of palaeontology. More recently, work has been undertaken to enhance the accessibility of palaeontological collections held by Canterbury's Museum Service.


The UK Continental Shelf on the move: transferring two major core and sample collections.

Mike P. A. Howe

British Geological Survey

The British Geological Survey (BGS) manages the national borehole archive, with corestores at Keyworth, Nottingham, holding samples and cuttings from over 15,000 onshore boreholes, including 250 km of core. The marine corestore at Loanhead, Edinburgh, held 12,000 metres of core and 15,000 seabed samples, and the UK Continental Shelf corestore at Gilmerton, Edinburgh, contained DECC's UK seaward hydrocarbon well cores and samples from over 8,000 wells, with 300 km of core and 4.5 million samples of cuttings.

In 2009, the decision was taken to consolidate the core holdings into a single "state of the art" facility at Keyworth. Because of the importance of the Gilmerton material to Britain's energy security, the BGS worked closely with a group of advisors to develop and monitor a safe transfer methodology. The move required 125,000 boxes of core and 47,000 boxes of cuttings to be packed into caged pallets and transferred to Keyworth within 18 months. Every box of core (often containing three internal boxes) was opened, the contents photographed (7216x5412 pixels) and additional conservation grade packaging added to protect the material during transit. Adoption of a production line technique, coupled with the extensive use of barcodes and database systems, is enabling the transfer to proceed on target. It has also provided a unique opportunity to audit 100% of the core, adding metadata or conservation issues to the database. QC inspection of the core on arrival at Keyworth has failed to detect any transfer damage.


Resourcing Palaeontological Collection Care in a Time of Crisis: The Legacy of the Earth Science Review, Twenty Years On

Jeff Liston

Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow

The current round of cuts resulting from the global financial crisis once again places museum collections in a vulnerable position in terms of resource allocations from funders national, regional and private. Often, cuts in institutional funding are proposed in the context of being intended to reshape an organisation for a more streamlined role, better designed to meet the challenges of the future. But however well museums are redesigned, they rarely escape being viewed as legitimate targets for funding cuts whenever a new round of belt-tightening comes up. The inherent implication of the language of institutional reshaping is that a certain amount of protection, if not immunity, will be conferred on the museum come the next round - but that rarely happens. This is true from all ranges of funders: it is simply hard in political terms for funders to justify resources going to cultural preservation instead of hospitals or nursery education.

Within museums, geological collections traditionally have a particularly hard time in terms of funding and justifying their existence. Whereas artworks, archaeological, historical or ethnographic objects appear to have an intuitively obvious value to external assessors, arguing the case for natural science in general, and geology in particular, has always been an uphill struggle.

This presentation will review how an unusual manifestation of this phenomenon in the late 1980s - the Earth Science Review, when cuts in funding actually led to an increase in long-term funding for some geological museum collections - has survived to the present day.


How Long? Preparation of the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur

Scott Moore-Fay

Wavecut Platform Ltd

Between 2002 and 2006 a large quantity of bones and bone bearing concretions (more than 32) were found washing out of a landslip in Weymouth Bay and collected, mainly by a single collector, Kevan Sheehan. These pieces, some weighing as much as 80kg, were subsequently identified by Richard Edmonds as the skull of a huge pliosaur and were purchased by Dorset County Council using funds provided by the Eleritage Lottery Fund.

Scott Moore-Fay (freelance preparator) successfully bid for the contract to prepare and mount the skull and lower jaws. Find out how long it takes to prepare a 2m pliosaur skull? Where do you start? What tools do you use? Were there any problems? What information has the preparation helped reveal?

The finished skull is now on display in the Geology Gallery at Dorchester County Museum.


Acid Preparation of a pond turtle from the Eocene Mo clay formation of northern Denmark

Frank Osbæck

Museernes Bevaringscenter i Skive

In 2010 an extremely well preserved Pond turtle (Owenemys sp.) was prepared at the preparation laboratory of Museernes Bevaringscenter i Skive. In 2011 it was returned with the request to prepare the specimens ventral side, exposing the plastron, a crucial diagnostic element.

The preparation produced a 3 dimensional prepared specimen, with a perfectly preserved plastron and more than 27 new bones including a femur, fibia, several bones from the foot and 6 tail vertebra. Together with the previously prepared dorsal side with the skull, large parts of the extremities, neck and tail vertebrae (57 in all), the specimen represents one of the best preserved Eocene turtles from the London Clay period.

The preparation of the ventral side was documented with stop motion technique showing the matrix, consisting partly of calcareous concretion known as cement stone, partly of calcium bound volcanic ash, slowly "disappearing" during preparation.

The specimen has not yet been described, but will undoubtedly give a unique new insight into Eocene Pond turtles.


Simplifying extraction and cross sectioning of microfossils in unlithified sediment

Trine Sorensen1 and Martin Abrahamsson2

1 Department of Conservation, Museum of Southern Jutland, Fabriksvej 17-21, DK-6510 Gram, Denmark; 2 Department of Natural History and Palaeontology, Museum of Southern Jutland, Lergravsvej 2, DK-6510 Gram, Denmark

Preparing micro-fossils can be a slow and costly affair because of difficulties in preparation and/or the need of expensive laboratory equipment. Flere we present a low-tech solution to extract microfossils from unlithified sediment and preparation of cross sections.

The Late Miocene (late Serravallien and Tortonien) Gram Formation in Southern Denmark is well known for its many whale fossils. Flowever, many other vertebrates and invertebrates are found in the Gram Clay leaving e.g. coprolites, tests, denticles, shells, bone- and teeth- fragments of micro-scale behind as fossils. The sticky, grey-brownish clay makes it difficult to spot fossils of sizes less than a few millimetres and wet sieving of the sediment is necessary for extraction. A nest of sieves with mesh sizes 1-0.063 mm and a mechanical shaker is traditionally used. Extracting the microfossils and fragments from the clay sediment using an old washing machine and a pair of nylon stockings have also proven to be an effective method and is a cheap and easy supplement to wet sieving.

A method for producing cross sections of crystals has been adapted to simplify the preparation process when making cross sections of microfossils and small fragments. Specimens are mounted on a compact disc using special double-sided adhesive film. A completely plane surface is thereby obtained minimizing the grinding afterwards. The flexible CD is easily removed after hardening of the epoxy. A CD can also be used as base when producing moulds of small fossils.


Building Conservation Grade Support Systems for the Long-Term Storage of Fossil Vertebrates

E Verveniotou, A Bernucci, and L Allington-Jones

The Natural History Museum (London, UK)

This poster presents the fabrication of support systems for long-term storage of vertebrate palaeontological specimens. The conservation unit in the Palaeontology department at the Natural History Museum, London UK, is regularly presented with opportunities to develop mounts for heavy, complex-shaped and often fragile specimens. The mounts have to be both strong and light-weight. They must fully support the specimen without applying pressure to weak points and allow maximum access with minimal handling. Using the laminating epoxy paste Epopast 400 as a primary material, the poster presents various support solutions that meet the above criteria and combines user-friendly, space-efficient and functional design features. The use of Hexlite (aluminium honeycomb board) and Plastazote (polyethylene foam) in combination with the use of Epopast 400 is discussed and practical information for the construction of the mounts is given. The long-term stability of the materials presented in this poster is established through the application of modified Oddy testing carried out by the conservation unit of the Palaeontology department. The project concludes that these materials are suitable for long-term storage solutions and Epopast 400 is a versatile support medium, especially suited to fossil vertebrates. Link to Poster


The Bristol Dinosaur Project - Preparation Methods

Pedro A. Viegas, Remmert Schouten, Ed Drewitt and Michael J. Benton

School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, BS8 1RJ, Bristol, UK

The Bristol Dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus antiquus, lived on small islands in a Rhaetic transgression environment about 200 million years ago amongst other animals. Much of the associated fauna remains are often very small (< 1mm) and have been found in karstic fissure fills alongside Thecodontosaurus.

These micro fossils are sometimes overlooked; this is for many reasons, i.e. low budgets, the need for fast results for publication, among others. Although much of the microfauna from this fissure has been described in earlier publications by David Whiteside, much more remains to be prepared, sorted and studied. The Bristol Dinosaur Project (BDP), now funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to retrieve more of the minute fossil remains from all those reptiles and fishes that co-habited the islands with Thecodontosaurus. This is no small task and a preparator is hired to achieve these results, recruit and supervise volunteers to work through much of the remaining estimated 4 tonnes of fossiliferous rock.

Due to their nature, microfossils are very fragile elements and cannot be removed from the rock with the "traditional'' methods of preparation, such as hammers and chisels or even air scribes. Instead the rocks are acid prepared, using acetic acid. In this paper we describe in detail the whole process of acid digestion at the BDP, the retrieval of all the microelements from the rocks and how they are treated subseguently until they are made available for handling for research. The process of preparation is actively contributing to the research value of the material.


2012, Oxford:



The Dorset Fossil Code database

Richard Forrest


The Jurassic Coast Fossil Database is a resource open to anyone to use. Its primary purpose is to enable people to see what specimens are being discovered and to allow access to that information, particularly for the research community.

A Microsoft Access database was created under West Dorset Fossil Code recording scheme and located in the Charmouth Heritage Centre. This limited the usability of the database, in particular that access is only from one location. There is also the risk of data loss if the host computer is faulty or stolen. A decision was made to migrate to an on-line version so that the database can be accessed from anywhere, and that data is stored much more securely.

The existing flat-field database was converted into a relational database to give much increased flexibility in accessing data. Open-source software, mysql and php, were used to build the database and the web interface. There is a large community of developers familiar with these applications, and such databases are more or less infinitely scalable. Data be added from any computer linked to the internet. Access is controlled by an hierarchical system of users, such that anyone can view limited information on the specimens, but only those with access rights can add or amend data. The system is being tested on-line now, and will be more formally launched when feedback from users and academic interests has been taken into account in further development.

Virtual palaeontology: an introduction

Russell Garwood1,2

1School of Materials, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

2School of Earth, Atmospheric, and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

Virtual Palaeontology is the application of 3D data acquisition and computer reconstruction techniques to palaeontological problems. While the majority of fossils are flattened, and splitting a rock open to investigate the revealed surface is highly successful, three-dimensionally preserved specimens present problems for these traditional techniques. Virtual palaeontology can reveal their morphology in full, aid research, and provide an avenue for the digital archiving and dissemination of fossils. This talk will provide an introduction to the field including its history and an overview of surface-based data acquisition techniques. It will detail tomographic (slice-based) methods, both destructive and non-destructive, and also introduce different aspects of data visualisation. The talk will emphasise the power of these techniques for curation and examine considerations for digitising collections through virtual fossils. It will conclude with a case study demonstrating the power of virtual palaeontology for research.

Mechanical Preparation of Oligocene Fishes

Mark.R Graham

Natural History Museum

The Conservation Centre at NHM London undertook fossil preparation upon three Oligocene fish specimens which were of historical significance, being part of the Enniskillen Collection, purchased by the museum in the late 1880s. The poster details the methodology employed during preparation of the specimens and focuses on a novel approach taken to reveal details of a key morphological feature on one of the specimens, the remora Uropteryx. This specimen was initially visible laterally across one surface of the shale with a layer of matrix covering the surface detail of the bones. The bones were initially developed by air abrasion which suggested that a key morphological feature ( the adapted dorsal fin forming the characteristic ‘sucker’) might be present and better exposed from the opposite (left lateral) side of the specimen. Due to the fragile nature of the fossil and extremely small features requiring preparation, a combination of techniques was employed successfully and these are recorded in the poster.

Going to the other side – Acid preparation of dinosaur bones from Atherfield Bay

Lu Allington-Jones

Natural History Museum

This poster outlines the acid preparation of a block of the Shepherd’s Chine Member of the Wealden Group from the Isle of Wight, England. The block was severely weathered on one side and preparation from the reverse was desirable. The preservation of the association of the bones was also requested. Unfortunately the block measured little more than 1cm in depth and a system of temporary and permanent supports were devised to overcome this. These comprised silicon rubber, Synocryl 9123s and HXTAL. Link to Poster

Bad influence - Acetic acid preparation of a pterosaur in metamorphosed limestone

Lu Allington-Jones

Natural History Museum

This project combined the challenge of extracting extremely fragile and fragmented pterosaur bones in a limestone too hard for percussive preparation tools. Acetic acid preparation was the obvious choice for this material, but further problems developed. The limestone had undergone contact metamorphism, leading to uneven hardness and acid resistance. It was found that 10% acetic acid was needed for 48 hour immersions before any effect was observed on the metamorphosed limestone. This high strength had undesirably severe effects on softer sections of the matrix, causing undercuts and pockets to develop. This was successfully combated using localised barriers made from microcrystalline wax and Synocryl 9123s. Link to Poster

2013, Edinburgh:



Pros and cons of restoration

Vicen Carrió1 Fatima Marcos2

1 - National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh, UK.

2 - T.E. de restauración paleontológica de “Lo Hueco”, Spain.

The criteria for conservation and restoration of a specimen have always been problematic. Restoration has been an issue that has generated controversy: should we restore missing parts at all? How far should we intervene and interpret? What should we use? Do we have the proper training to do so? In palaeontological preparation the issue is even more complex. In most cases, the restoration is not for aesthetics, but to give stability to the specimen. We are rediscovering animals and plants that lived in the past, and in many cases, we do not know their anatomy. The collaboration between the researchers and the preparators will dictate the way in which the restoration will be undertaken, according to the scientific use of the piece. Common to all the criteria used is that the restoration must be reversible and recognizable, so that we can always return the piece to its original condition. Furthermore, all conservation materials used should be compatible with the original fossils. The characteristics of the added parts must be similar and not cause further damage or deterioration to the specimen. Currently, in conservation and restoration, we use a number of acrylic resins, which have been proven to be inert and reversible. Resins are used both in restoration for structural reinforcement, and for aesthetic restoration. These resins are miscible with various types of fillers that will modify their colour, texture or hardness. Different situations call for different mixtures of solvent, fillers and resins to be used. Depending on the amount of product to be mixed and the percentage of the resin with respect to the solvent, the ‘characteristic’ result product will be different, allowing us to apply it as the piece requires.

The use of expansive demolition agents for the extraction of large and delicate dinosaur fossils from the Upper Cretaceous of South-Central Pyrenees (Catalonia, Europe)

Angel Galobart, Albert Garcia-Sellés & Bernat Vila*

Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain.

The uppermost Cretaceous fossiliferous rocks from Coll de Nargó (Lleida, Catalonia) mainly consist of cemented calcareous mudstones with strong lithological resistance. In these conditions, the use, for the first time, of expansive demolition agents (EDA) in rock volume containing fossils was found to be an efficient alternative to pneumatic hammers or heavy machinery. The use of expansive demolition agents is common in mining and quarrying. Recently, non-explosive agents have been also used as a successful methodology for removing rock blocks in palaeontological fieldwork. Here, we present two examples of the usage of EDA in palaeontological fieldworks consisting of the removal of large and heavy blocks containing delicate and/or small-sized fossils. The first example consists of the extraction of the largest dinosaur clutch described in Europe, containing 28 dinosaur eggs, which is 1 m3 in volume and about 2 tonnes in weight. The second one involves a minute vertebrate skeleton in anatomical connexion. In both cases, multiple equidistant holes of 50 mm diameter were drilled around the fossil remains, and then filled with the expansive demolition agent. After a few hours the agent reached its maximum pressure on the rock (9,000 tonnes/m2), cracked the surrounding sediment and left the fossils intact to be removed with safety. Protective gypsum jacket, acrylic resins, polyurethane and even iron structures are good complements to protect and transport fossils to the restoration laboratory.

Estimating the volumes and masses of big plaster field jackets

Donald Henderson

Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Drumheller, Canada.

Recovering the fossil remains of dinosaurs and other large Mesozoic reptiles frequently involves creating and moving very large blocks of rock that can sometimes weigh up to several tonnes. Accurately knowing the mass of a fossil block greatly assists in planning how to move it, what equipment will be needed, and what sort of powered lifting in the forms of trackhoes, cranes, and even helicopters will be required. The storage of large blocks also requires knowing the masses of blocks as the loading capacities of shelves, tables and floors need to be taken into consideration. It has been our experience at the Tyrrell Museum that people typically tend to underestimate the masses of large fossil jackets. Using some recently collected large jackets as worked examples – a plesiosaur removed as six small to medium jackets and a very large partial Triceratops – several different techniques for making estimates of their masses were tried. These jackets were then weighed with a digital scale, and the percent error of the mass estimates were calculated. Approximating the shape and dimensions of plaster jackets with tri-axial ellipsoids produced the best estimates, but these tended to underestimate the true weight by 6-7%. In contrast, approximating a jacket with a rectangular box that fully enclosed it, tended to severely overestimate the mass by up to 140% is some cases.

Why look at fossils in infra-red?

Nigel Larkin

Natural History Conservation, Newport, UK.

Geology and palaeontology collections often contain specimens that require quite different environmental conditions from one another. Therefore the environmental conditions of museum stores are generally kept in the middle ground as far as practically possible. It would make sense to try to understand the subtle differences in conditions provided within a storage area so that the material can be arranged accordingly, but subtle differences in environmental conditions are difficult to measure. However, modern digital infrared thermal imaging technology can provide exactly the sort of data required, and in incredible detail: an infrared camera providing an image resolution of just 640 x 480 pixels will give 307,200 separate temperature data points within an image, with an accuracy of about 0.1 °C to 0.045 °C. Bearing in mind we can quantify how much the relative humidity will rise or fall for every degree of change in temperature, this equipment provides a level of environmental analysis of museum collections areas that other data logging equipment cannot match, and presents it in a highly visual format that is generally intuitively understood but also easily analysed with proprietary software. There are many factors influencing the accuracy and interpretation of the data, however, so training is required. Uptake of the technology for collections management purposes in museums is currently in its infancy due to a lack of awareness of how the technology can be applied.

‘Kong Long Dan’: excavation, export and experience

Jeff Liston

Yunnan University, Yunnan, China.

Dinosaur eggs have been known from a variety of provinces of China for over 50 years. In the late 1980s, as large numbers were being unearthed by farmers, Chinese examples began to regularly enter collections throughout Europe, through the aegis of international fossil dealers. As small and discrete objects, they were appealing to museums, and presented a compelling object to swiftly capture the imagination of a public audience. From a research perspective, they were suddenly a new and accessible resource – the application of emergent scanning technologies to these objects (albeit with varying results) allowed the possibility of exploring the contents of unhatched eggs, in search of possible dinosaur embryos, and many research institutions acquired them with this in mind. Recently, moves have been made by the Chinese Government to repatriate such material, with some notable successes. This clearly presents some threats to museums and other institutions worldwide that either already hold such material, or are looking to acquire examples. Can this be legally done? What are the lessons in terms of acquiring material for either research work or museum collections? Perhaps more importantly, what are the potential dangers of repatriation of such objects in view of this new clampdown?

The Trento Experience: building life-like models of extinct species and shipping them 1000 miles to Italy

Robert Nicholls

Paleocreations, Bristol.

The new MUSE Science Museum in Trento, Italy was opened to the public on July 27th, 2013. I was commissioned to make life-like models (scale and life-size) of twenty extinct species for the museum. Great experience of dealing with complex technical problems was gained in the creation of these models. Slender invertebrate appendages require very different sculpting materials and techniques to those of the muscular bodies of larger vertebrates. So, how was a realistic finish achieved for such a wide variety of forms? And, once completed, how were these fragile one-of-a-kind items shipped undamaged 1000 miles from Bristol to Trento?

Special care for historical collections – The Timor Collection at Naturalis Biodiversity Center (the Netherlands)

Natasja den Ouden & Becky Desjardins

Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, Netherlands.

The Indonesian island of Timor is rich in sediments dating from the Permian period. These sediments are of marine origin and contain a very large amount of representatives of marine invertebrate groups (corals, brachiopods, ammonites, belemnites, blastoids, crinoids). At the beginning of the 20th century the species richness and outstanding preservation of the fossil material was recognized and several expeditions were organized. Most notable are the expeditions organized by Prof. Molengraaff (Delft University) from 1910-1912 and Prof. Brouwer (University of Amsterdam) in 1937. Both collections are now housed at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. Together they form the largest museum collection of Timor fossils worldwide and they are of great importance for the study and reconstruction of Permian marine ecosystems. As the material was collected a century ago, it is now suffering from degrading packaging material and fading ink on labels. A special project is underway to clean and repack the fossil material, digitize the information on the labels and photograph fading labels and type specimens. The project is part of a larger digitization program where a total of 37 million museum objects (fossils, rocks and minerals, recent plants and animals, but also registers and antique books and drawings) housed in Naturalis will be digitized and information made available on the internet. On top of this, our project is being carried out in the LiveScience hall of the museum, which means that visitors can see our work, monitor our progress and ask questions.

Storage enhancement of the Palaeontological Collection at Facultad de Ciencias (Uruguay): Quaternary vertebrates make the first move.**

Alejandra Rojas1, Martin Ubilla*1, Andrea Corona1, Andrés Rinderknecht1,2 & Fernanda Cabrera1

1 - Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay.

2 - Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Palaeontological Collection at Facultad de Ciencias, Montevideo (FCDP) is the most representative collection of the rich Uruguayan fossil record in the country. Leaving behind past neglect, recent collection management activities have improved the care and condition of the FCDP fossil specimens. Some of the main problems of the FCDP are the virtual absence of a regular budget for supplies and the lack of space for the growth of the collection. However, a recent research project allowed the acquisition of three new cabinets, 2 m high, locked white metal made with 56 drawers each. As Uruguay represents an extremely small market, no specific natural history collection suppliers exist. Then, the new cabinets had to be designed and manufactured especially for the FCDP. These will allow the future growth of the collection and the relocation and reordering of pre-existing fossil specimens. The forefront in occupying the first drawers was the Quaternary continental vertebrates of the Sopas Formation of Uruguay, mostly represented by mammals. Almost 500 specimens and lots were moved. Many old fossil containers were replaced by lidded transparent boxes and the specimens were taxonomically ordered in the cabinets. Associated data was digitally recorded, taxonomic assignation was revised and updated and all specimens were imaged. The results of this effort are not only the evident enhancement of an important and well studied portion of the Uruguayan fossil record but also the highlight of the scientific and patrimonial value of the whole Palaeontological Collection.**Contribution to ANII/FCE-1-2009-2398 (M.U.)

The new Palaeobiology Store at National Museums Scotland

Andrew Ross

National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh, UK.

The new Palaeobiology Store at the National Museums Scotland is now open for visiting researchers to study its collections. The Royal Museum on Chambers Street, Edinburgh (now part of the National Museum of Scotland) was refurbished with new exhibition galleries, which opened in 2011. As part of this project, all the Palaeontology collections that were in the Royal Museum were moved to the National Museums Collections Centre (NMCC) at the north side of Edinburgh. A new extension to one of the existing stores was built and the Palaeontology collections are now housed on the ground floor. Moving of the collections commenced late 2010 and was finished by the summer of 2012. Since then the Palaeobiology curatorial team have been busy unpacking the specimens. The store is approximately 400 m squared with good environmental controls (temperature and humidity) and lights with motion sensors. There are two banks of mobile racking – 65 racks in all, 2 metres high. There are three types of storage – 1) 130 new lockable metal cabinets house the type & figured collection and part of the vertebrate collection; 2) the main racking houses the existing drawers and crates; 3) part of the racking has large open-span shelves to take some of the larger crates and slabs. So now the Palaeontology collections at National Museums Scotland (about 250,000 specimens) are housed in excellent conditions to safeguard them for future generations, and in one place – the first time for at least 50 years.

This section contains a listing of talks and posters delivered at SPPC in previous years. If you are wondering what SPPC is all about, or if it is for you, then this is a good place to start. 

1992 Bristol

1994 Le Havre

1996 University College London

1997 Derby

1998 Bournemouth

1999 Edinburgh

2000 Portsmouth

2001 York

2002 Cambridge

2003 Oxford

2004 Leicester

2005 London

2006 Paris

2007 Glasgow

2008 Dublin

2009 Bristol

2010 Cambridge

2011 Lyme Regis

2012 Oxford

2013 Edinburgh

2014 York

2015 Southampton

2016 Liverpool

2017 Birmingham

2018 Manchester

2019 Isle of Wight

2014, York:



Challenges encountered during the preparation by acid-resin transfer of fossil fish from Monte Bolca, Italy by Mark R Graham and Lu Allington-Jones

Natural History Museum, London

The Monte Bolca outcrops near Verona, Italy, represent a limestone Lagerstätte containing extremely well-preserved fossil fishes of Eocene age. The area was discovered in the 16th century and has so far produced around 250 fish species along with crocodiles, snakes, invertebrates and plants. Due to their undisturbed but two-dimensional nature, the fossil fishes from Monte Bolca are ideal for preparation by the resin transfer technique.

The collections at the Natural History Museum, London, UK (NHM) contain numerous specimens prepared by this method. These have been created over several decades and with varying success. Unfortunately the exact processes and the names of resins used are not all fully documented. This presentation outlines the issues encountered during the application of the resin transfer technique to five fish requested for active research. It also includes a comparison of a selection of resins which are currently commercially available.

Evolutionary history of antlers in Cervidae (Ruminantia, Artiodactyla, Mammalia)

Nicola S. Heckeberg1,2,3, Gertrud E. Rössner1,2,4, Robert J. Asher3

 1) Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Department for Earth and Environmental Sciences, Palaeontology & Geobiology, Munich, Germany

2) SNSB-Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie, Munich, Germany

3) Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

4) GeoBio-CenterLMU, Munich, Germany

 Antlers are unique organs and the synapomorphy of Cervidae (deer). They are branched, osseous outgrowths of the frontal bone, which are shed and rebuilt in intervals. The fossil record of the early Miocene yielded the oldest known antler remains, which were interpreted as non-shed, because of supposed perpetual skin coverage and the lack of a burr (= well-developed osseous protuberance around the antler’s base, always present in extant cervids). A typical indicator for antler shedding is an even, porous, and smooth abscission surface at the proximal end of the antler without sharp breaking edges and with a convex or concave topology; the separation between the deciduous antler and the permanent pedicle appears in the same transversal plane. We undertook comparative morphological scrutiny of the abscission area of antlers from extant cervids (burr-bearing) and of fossil cervids, including burr-less antler fragments of the earliest cervids, such as Procervulus, Acteocemas, and Ligeromeryx from several European early and mid Miocene sites. The results indicate the presence of the antler shedding mechanism in all studied early/mid Miocene cervids, suggesting that a burr is not required to shed antlers. Based on this evidence, we conclude that permanent antlers have not yet been demonstrated and that the process of shedding and regeneration occurred with the first appearance of these organs.

GB/3D fossil types online - not only the largest collection of 3D digital fossils, but also of major format, schema and vocabulary conundrums

Mike Howe, Simon Harris and Tim McCormick

British Geological Survey

The ICZN and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants require that every species or subspecies has a type specimen to define its characters. With time, collections have been moved or amalgamated, and type specimens can deteriorate or become lost. The partners in the Jisc funded project, the British Geological Survey, the Sedgwick Museum Cambridge, the National Museum Cardiff, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and the Geological Curators’ Group (representing other national, university and local museums) have collaborated to create an online database of British macrofossil types: www.3d-fossils.ac.uk .

The web portal provides data about each specimen, searchable on taxonomic, stratigraphic and spatial criteria. High resolution photographs, stereo anaglyphs and many 3D digital models are available. The portal is equally accessible to academia and the public, and represents the largest online collection of virtual fossils. It is improving the quality and efficiency of research, reducing unproductive loans and visits, and providing a valuable resource for amateur palaeontologists and the public. The project’s

progress since its launch one year ago will be reviewed. Combining 2,500 years of legacy data proved a major challenge. Museum databases – even different implementations of the same product – tend to use different schemas and different dictionaries. The lack of general agreement over file formats necessitated careful consideration of the options. JPEG2000 was selected for images, because of its speed in accessing large files, and .PLY (relatively small file size) and .OBJ (flexibility) were chosen for 3D digital models.

A Tale of Two Mysticeti

Nigel Larkin

1 - University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge 2 - Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service

In 2009 the partial skeleton of a large and fragile 5,200 year-old baleen whale was excavated in coastal sediments in Abu Dhabi (UAE). In 2013 a similar sized (70-ft long) skeleton of a 150 year-old finback whale that had been suspended from a ceiling for 25 years outside the Zoology Museum of Cambridge University was cleaned, dismantled and moved into temporary storage for the duration of a refurbishment project. In Abu Dhabi the 4m long fragile skull was in a few pieces due to taphonomic processes in the burial environment. In Cambridge the 4.5m long skull was complete and weighed over a tonne. Despite the whales’ very different contexts and ages and the fact that one skeleton had to be lifted from desert sediments and transported several miles whilst the other skeleton had to be removed from its mount and moved fifty metres, some of the processes used were very similar. The excavated skeleton had to be cleaned and recorded, assessing the sediments and taphonomic processes evident at the site. The displayed skeleton had to be cleaned and the way it was mounted and suspended had to be recorded in detail to facilitate remounting in a couple of years. Interesting pathologies exhibited by the bones were noted in both cases. In particular, both projects necessitated constructing protective and supportive frameworks around the skulls and mandibles, bolting together lengths of galvanised steel ‘Unistrut’ to enable the large and heavy yet fragile specimens to be safely moved with airjacks and cranes.

Using infrared thermal imaging as a collections management tool.

Nigel Larkin


A palaeontology collection may contain specimens with conflicting environmental requirements. Therefore the (sometimes subtle) differences in environmental conditions within a collections storage area or display area should be exploited appropriately if the different microenvironments can be identified and quantified. Digital infrared thermal imaging cameras can be used to measure and visualise even subtle temperature gradients within a store instantly and accurately, to provide a much more detailed understanding of the complexities of a three-dimensional space than any other datalogging equipment can currently provide. The differences in temperature can be used to infer likely differences in relative humidity levels as well. Digital infrared images present their temperature data immediately in a highly visual format that is generally intuitively understood but it can also be very easily numerically analysed with the software so that areas within and between images can be compared. Using an infrared camera to investigate storage or display areas will reveal, for instance, temperature gradients due to stratification, hot spots, cool drafts, damp patches and unlagged heating pipes under floors etc – all of which would otherwise be invisible. Whilst infrared cameras are sometimes used in museums to investigate where energy (and therefore finances) can be conserved, their application for collections management purposes is rare simply due to a lack of awareness of how the technology can be usefully applied. Several factors influence the accuracy of the interpretation of the data so training is required.

Resourcing palaeontological collection care in a time of crisis: The legacy of the Earth Science Review, twenty years on.

Jeff Liston

Yunnan University

The current round of cuts resulting from the global financial crisis once again places museum collections in a vulnerable position in terms of resource allocations from national, regional and private funders. Often, cuts in institutional funding are proposed in the context of being intended to reshape an organisation for a more streamlined role, better designed to meet the challenges of the future. But however well museums are redesigned, they rarely escape being viewed as legitimate targets for funding cuts whenever a new round of belt-tightening comes up. The inherent implication of the language of institutional reshaping is that a certain amount of protection, if not immunity, will be conferred on the museum come the next round – but that rarely happens. This is true across the range of funders: it is simply hard in political terms for funders to justify resources going to cultural preservation instead of hospitals or nursery education. Within museums, geological collections traditionally have a particularly hard time in terms of funding and justifying their existence. Whereas artworks, archaeological, historical or ethnographic objects appear to have an intuitively obvious value to external assessors, arguing the case for natural science in general, and geology in particular, has always been an uphill struggle. This presentation will review how an unusual manifestation of this phenomenon in the late 1980s - the Earth Science Review, when cuts in funding actually led to an increase in long-term funding for some geological museum collections - has survived to the present day.

Preparation of Ardiodus sp? from the Eocene Moclay in Denmark: New approaches in acid preparation. 

Frank Osbæck

Museernes Bevaringscenter i Skive

During 14 months from summer 2012, an 80cm long fish specimen, probably Ardiodus which is also known from the London clay, was prepared at Museernes Bevaringscenter I Skive. The concretion containing the large exceptionally well preserved fish was approximately 95x75 cm large, 25 cm thick, weighing more than 90 kg. It consisted of 5 large pieces and around 100 small fragments. The normal procedure at our lab is to use an epoxy, Araldite 20-20 as adhesive. Its extremely low viscosity allows the parts of the specimens to be pressed very tightly together, avoiding even the slightest gaps between bone fragments. Resins are not entirely acid resistant and will swell considerately (up to 10%) during acid preparation when it goes on for as long as it takes to prepare the large concretions (months). This would not be acceptable in this case, as the entire length of the fish was split in two, lengthwise. The swelling would pry the very fragile bones apart and could have caused a large part of the specimen to be lost. It was decided, after tests on other specimens, to use Paraloyd B72 as an adhesive, itself not entirely acid resistant but featuring other advantages that were essential in this context. The result is a very beautiful fossil featuring extraordinary details and very interesting taphonomic information.

The Upper Jurassic marine reptiles from Spitsbergen: from field conservation to laboratory preparation

Aubrey Jane Roberts 1,2, May-Liss Knudsen Funke2, Victoria Engelschiøn Nash 2,3, Patrick Scott Druckenmiller4 and Jørn Harald Hurum2

1 - University of Southampton, 2 - University of Oslo Natural History Museum, 3 - Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 4 - University of Alaska Museum

Ten years of field excavation and lab preparation of the Upper Jurassic marine reptiles from the Slottsmøya Member of central Spitsbergen, have yielded new techniques in Arctic field excavation and the following preparation. Here we present these new methods and their results, which may be of use to others considering excavation in high latitude environments. Unique field techniques have been devised to work under harsh Arctic conditions, using limited electrical equipment. Varying lithologies during field collection; from paper shale, iron stone to frozen fresh shale require different field conservation and excavation techniques. All the specimens were collected in thawed or frozen permafrost, and are therefore subject to congelifraction, often resulting in heavily fragmented material. Each individual specimen is in a unique state of preservation, which can also vary throughout the preserved material. Respectively, each of these different types of preservation requires a different type of preparation, resulting in the development of new methods of laboratory preparation. A combination of different cleaning techniques along with the use of a stabilizing polyvinyl acetate temporary adhesive and permanent adhesives, has made the preparation of these specimens feasible.

2015, Southampton:

A brief history of the best collection of fossil fish in the world – probably…

Emma Bernard

It has been said by many academic visitors and staff at the Natural History Museum, London (NHM), that the fossil fish collection is one of the best in the world. The collection contains approximately 90,000 specimens from all corners of the globe spanning from the Ordovician to the Pleistocene. Between 1836 to 1884 the Museum acquired thirty eight major collections containing fossil fish. Two of the most important fossil fish collections were purchased by the Museum in the 1880’s; William Willoughby Cole, the 3rd Earl of Enniskillen and Sir Philip de Malpas Grey Egerton. These collections comprised about 17,000 specimens. In 1882 Arthur Smith Woodward joined the Museum and recognised the significance of the Fossil Fish Collection and almost immediately devoted all of his time and efforts into the study of fossil fish, culminating in the four part Catalogue of the Fossil Fishes in the British Museum (Natural History) published between 1989 and 1901. This is still used by many researchers today. Woodward went onto describe nearly 320 type specimens, the majority held in the NHM. Over the next 115 years the collections have continued to be added to and worked on. With many staff members undertaking expeditions to enhance the collections and developing techniques to expose fossils, such as Harry Toombs . The collections are still heavily used by researchers from around the world today and we are still actively adding to the collection. Current curatorial projects involve digitising and making publically available the British Mesozoic holdings.

Fossils, Footprints & Fakes

Mark Graham

The Natural History Museum has undertaken a series of annual field trips to Morocco for collections enhancement purposes. Specimens are collected directly from various locations and also obtained from local collectors and dealers, introduced to the group by trusted local contacts with whom the museum has built a relationship. The 2015 fieldtrip in late February/early March was very eventful, with sudden snowfall and floods encountered, hidden mountainside quarries visited, little publicised dinosaur trackways discovered and fossil fakery by skilled preparators witnessed at first hand. This presentation highlights the scientific value and potential pitfalls of such collaborations.

Breaking bad…bone beds: processing the Downton Bone Bed.

Luke Hauser

Bone beds have often been a focus for micropalaeontological study as the high concentration of fossil material allows vertebrate palaeontologists the returns normally experienced only by nannofossil workers and palynologists. It is not always straightforward to release the fossil material within bone beds and the extraction of microfossils from the Downton Bone Bed of the upper Silurian is particularly challenging. Outlined here is an integrated method for processing this bone bed using liquid paraffin and a microwave oven and a comparison in terms of quality and quantity with material recovered using other techniques. This method has also been used on other bone beds to test its effectiveness. This integrated method allows for the recovery of microvertebrates such as thelodonts, and also internal moulds of ostracodes, brachiopods and early plant material. This integrated method is enabling for the first time study of the Downton Bone Bed’s fossil content.

Moulding dinosaur tracks on the banks of the St. Mary River in southwestern Alberta, Canada

Donald Henderson

During river survey work in 2014, following the extensive 2013 flooding that affected almost all southern Alberta rivers, a new dinosaur tracksite was discovered. Investigation of the site in the spring of 2015 resulted in the discovery of another, even better set of tracks and trackways, and while working on these first two more sets of tracks were found. The blocks of sandstone hosting the tracks are immense, and it was felt that cutting out the tracks was too risky- both for safety of the people involved and the survival of the tracks. Instead, large latex rubber peels, reinforced with an open weave cloth, were made of the tracks. The very hot field conditions – full sun exposure all day with temperatures of 32-36oC every day made for challenging moulding conditions. The large peels were successfully returned to the museum where a very thin layer of the very strong, fibre glass reinforced plaster will be used to make a cast. The intention is to display these thin casts by hanging them on walls with low angle lighting from the edge of the cast, along with a map illustrating the various.

Leviathan Rising: A new collections curation initiative from the Star Pit dig

Jeff Liston

Over field seasons 2002 and 2003, the most complete specimen of the large suspensionfeeding fish Leedsichthys was excavated from the Star Pit, just outside Whittlesey, one of the last clay brick pits that Alfred Leeds collected from. Consisting of over 2,300 parts, the specimen became known as ‘Ariston’ because it went on and on, rather like the old utility advertisement. It took over 3,100 staff hours to excavate this prodigious quantity of material, achieving the record of the longest single dig for a vertebrate specimen in Europe. In July 2015, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation awarded a grant to Vivacity-Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery through the Museums Association’s Collections Fund, to complete the work on this specimen. The funds for the Leviathan Project will be used for the specimen to be fully curated, with all associated field documentation including excavation maps, field photographs, video dig diaries and specimen registration books. As well as being used for school activities and events, photography will be employed to help create an online exhibition and website, linking to other collections with stores of this animal’s remains around the world. Staff development will occur to ensure the necessary understanding is in place institutionally for long-term access and the global significance of the specimen. As a further part of the legacy from this project, it will provide training for individuals to complete the final stages of preparation, conservation and long-term storage of the final excavated elements of the specimen, completing the work started by Alan Dawn in 2002.

Preparation of a uniquely preserved turtle from the early Eocene Mo clay formation of northern Denmark.

Frank Osbæck

In the spring of 2014 a big block of cement stone concretion was found in Ejerslev Mo clay quarry on the island of Mors situated in the Limfjord, Northern Jutland. It was from the start obvious that it contained parts of the Carapace and limb bones from a turtle. Once in the lab of Museernes Bevaringscenter I Skive, our “normal” procedure of preparing vertebrate fossils was used. First Hammer and chisel, diamond rotating tools and heavy pneumatic tools was used, switching to finer tools when coming closer to the fossil surface, then, normally Acetic acid preparation buffered with Calcium orthophosphate would be used. This was changed when the first traces of a thin carbon layer was discovered. This layer represents preserved skin and is as thin as a pencil line and just as fragile, in itself acid resistant but when on top of soluble carbon carbonate concretion, disappears in a few moments when acid is applied. The skin is finely preserved on parts of the carapace, totally on one of the carapace horn plates and sensationally for this location between the toes of one of the hind legs. The preparation was after this discovery mostly mechanical: scalpel, needles scrapers and pneumatic tools. When finished after a year we have half of the carapace, parts of the pelvis with complete Sacrum, the complete tail and both hind legs almost completely prepared so you see the preserved skin between the toes. It was also possible to collect parts of counter plate with skin impression during the preparation and this is presently being studied by Johan Lindgreen, University of Lund. This specimen will undoubtedly add new understanding to the early Eocene Turtles.



2016, Liverpool:




Richard Forrest


The fossil of a juvenile Cryptoclidus was found by Darren Withers on a field trip to Must Farm Quarry organised by the Peterborough Museum on Saturday 25th June 2016. The excavation of the specimen had to be organised at short notice because of the risk of unauthorised collectors looting the site, and time constraints because of its location in a working pit. A detailed plan of action was drawn up with Peterborough Museum, and agreed by Fortera, the brick-making company who own the pit. The excavation was carried out over three days, from Wednesday 29th to Friday 1st July. It is in the nature of any such excavation that some data is lost, and careful records need to be made to reduce this. The approach usually adopted in such excavations is to trace the outline of individual bones on a plastic sheet laid over the area. This failed because the first full day of excavation was carried out in steady rain, and it was impossible to trace outlines on wet plastic. Photogrammetry was used to record the excavation area at various stages of excavation, which provides a scalable 3-D model of the disposition of the bones. In addition, photographs were taken of each element in situ with a marker tile recording a unique number and recorded in a log book. This has proved to be very successful. The specimen is now in Peterborough Museum where volunteers are cleaning and conserving the material.


Donald Henderson

Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

During the summer of 2015 latex peels were made in the field to record exceptional sets of dinosaur footprints from the Late Cretaceous St. Mary River Formation in southwestern Alberta. The peels were done to avoid the logistical nightmare of trying to recover the multi-tonne sandstone blocks that hosted the trackways from the bottom of high, steep river banks. With the peels successfully returned to the Museum we were able to make thin, strong casts of the peels to form a permanent record for housing in the Museum collections and for potential future exhibits. Very broad (2m wide, 3-4m long), but shallow (8cm deep) boxes were constructed from plywood and 2x4s for each of the peels. The dimensions of the boxes were such that the peel was able to lie perfectly flat, with only a small margin extending beyond their perimeters. As the peels were made on irregular, non-planar rock surfaces, a layer of sand was placed in the bottom of a box to provide continuous and easily adjustable support of the latex sheet to prevent it warping when the moulding materials were applied. Aqua resin was used to make the actual cast of the tracks, while fibreglass reinforced plaster was used as a rather dense, but very strong, backing, so only a thin layer would be required. Given the very shallow, eroded nature of many of the tracks, laser-scanning of the trackway casts was done to produce digital elevation models to possibly aid visualisation, but with mixed results.


Nigel R. Larkin1 and Caroline Buttler2

1 - Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, 2 - National Museum Wales

In 2004 a large and exceptionally well preserved Late Carboniferous giant clubmoss comprising a tall trunk and broad Stigmaria root structure was discovered in a newly exposed fossil forest site in an old steel works at Brymbo near Wrexham, North Wales. Cleaning, conserving and safely mounting the whole fossil for exhibition in 2016 was not easy as the specimen was in 90 pieces, weighed almost a ton and stood 2.25 m tall with a root span of 3.5 m. Also, as the specimen was to be displayed in various locations over time and would have to be dismantled and transported, a modular mount able to be easily assembled and dissembled was required. The mount was made in sections from welded steel lined with Plastazote foam, with robust lockable wheels underneath the main trunk. As the two uppermost sections of the trunk weighed approximately a quarter of a ton each, to reduce risk to the specimen and to people undertaking the mounting they were moulded and painted casts were mounted in their place. Large Carboniferous Stigmaria root systems associated with trunks are rare and few are on display. This specimen has proved to be a popular exhibit in Wrexham. The mounting system is strong but not too intrusive. The brackets supporting the roots have the appearance of rootlets that would have existed in life. It is fitting that the structure is created from steel, the material made for over a century on the heritage site where the fossil was discovered.


Nigel R. Larkin1, Dean R. Lomax2, Luanne Meehitiya3 and Steven Dey4

1 - Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, 2 - The University of Manchester, 3 - Thinktank Science Museum, 4 - ThinkSee3D Ltd

In 1955, a partial ichthyosaur skeleton was excavated from Lower Jurassic deposits in Warwickshire. Unusually for Lower Jurassic specimens, the skull bones largely retained their three-dimensional integrity and the skull was mounted for display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. A recent conservation project to dismantle the skull and rebuild it more accurately involved micro-CT scanning some of the skull elements, mirroring the data, and printing accurate 3D models to replace carved pieces of wood that previously represented missing elements on one side of the skull. This process digitally recorded the bones for future research before replacing them within the skull. Whilst investigating the history of the specimen and looking for missing pieces the postcranial material, which was separated from the skull a long time ago, was rediscovered. Research revealed that this specimen can be identified as an Ichthyosaurus. With an estimated lower jaw length of 87 cm it is the largest example of the genus so far recorded. Therefore the entire skeleton was cleaned and conserved for display. To help visitors to understand the skeleton, missing portions of the postcranial skeleton were recreated. The left forelimb and pectoral girdle bones were CT scanned, the data mirrored, and the bones for the right side 3D-printed. The same process was undertaken for missing portions of the rear limbs. Missing vertebrae were represented by casts of adjacent vertebrae. The skeleton is now the centerpiece of the new permanent Marine Worlds gallery at Thinktank, including an interactive focused on the conservation.


Jeff Liston 1,2 and Glenys Wass 2

1 - National Museums Scotland, 2 - Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery

Over field seasons 2002 and 2003, the most complete specimen of the Middle Jurassic suspension-feeding fish Leedsichthys was excavated from the Star Pit, just outside Whittlesey, Peterborough. Over 100 days of excavation involving over 3,100 staff hours extracted over 2,300 parts, making it the longest dig for a single vertebrate specimen in Europe. The specimen was registered and deposited at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, and over the ensuing years over 11,750 hours of preparation time was applied to it by Alan Dawn and his team of volunteers in the palaeo lab. Specimens ranged in scale from gigantic plaster jacket slabs 1-2 metres in length, to 7x10cm ziplock bags of fragments. In between there were tissue-wrapped slabs of the excavation surface (taken from the field for time efficiency reasons), and bags bulging with individual gill rakers. Many of these specimens were prepared over this time, the clay prepared away, Paraloid B72 anointing the fragments to heal the fractures, and fibreglass jackets made to support these most fragile yet long bones.

Preparation work was only interrupted from 2010-2012 for the closure of the museum for a full redisplay. In July 2015, the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund (via the Museums Association) awarded a £65K grant to Vivacity-Peterborough to provide full curation of the specimen with a ‘virtual display’. This was a key consideration: with new displays, there was no physical space to add a full display of this specimen – even if the building had had a gallery large enough to do so.


Emma-Louise Nicholls and Joanne Hatton

Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman Museum’s Study Collections Centre houses the fossil collection of Walter Bennett, an early to mid-20th Century geologist, who collected much of the material himself. The collection was acquired from the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society in the 1980s, and comprises approximately 175,000 specimens housed in 57 wooden cabinets. Whilst much of the fossil material was found in the UK, more prominent sites are also represented such as the Solnhofen limestone and the Burgess Shale. Its composition is around ¼ vertebrate and ¾ invertebrate, with fish, molluscs, and coral being well represented. The collection has been recognised as an important one that needs to be properly documented. The collection arrived with stratigraphy and locality, but varying levels of taxonomic identification. No numbering system existed however. In the 1990s a documentation project resulted in improved identifications and several folders of A4 hand written records, later transferred onto a database. To complicate matters further, accession numbers were allocated to these electronic records but not the specimens. Most recently a volunteer has spent five herculean years going through each drawer making an inventory of its contents on a spreadsheet. As the new Deputy Keeper of Natural History I am tasked with collating data from each of these four sources and numbering the specimens with unique numbers to tie the data together on the collections management database to make it accessible. With further complications yet to be explained, advice on the most efficient way of going about this would be welcome.


Frank Osbæck

Museum Sønderjylland

The clay pit in Gram is of Upper Miocene age and is mostly known for its whale fossils. Besides a large invertebrate fauna it offers a rich insight into the Miocene vertebrate fauna with sharks, birds, tortoises, seals and Whales. During the last couple of months I have been working on a Stingray barb section, two bird “bones” and a tooth whale lower jaw which will be scientifically described when the preparation has been finished. The preparation of the fossils are mostly quite straightforward scalpel and dental tool work, as the dried clay is relatively easily cut but extremely fragmented. The basic problem is the pyrite, both in the clay prone to pyrite decay but also the pyrite encrusting the fossils themselves. On the dried clay water is not an option, so mechanical removal with the help of Acetone and Paraloyd B72 is used. The bones are partly perfectly preserved, smooth and fine, partly a grainy mess which tends to disintegrate if you just “look” at it. All together, business as usual.

I hope to give a little insight into the world of preparing Miocene fossils, seen through the eye of the Preparator (and his camera).


Emanuel Tschopp 1,2,3 & Femke Holwerda 2,3,4

1 - Università di Torino, 2 - Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 3- Museu da Lourinhã, 4 - Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie

The Journal of Paleontological Techniques (JPT) was established in 2006 in the Museu da Lourinhã (ML), Portugal, as a means to provide a platform for preparators of the ML to share ideas and knowledge with their peers. After this, it grew to be an open access, free journal, publishing mostly on the collecting, preparation, conservation, and exhibition of natural history objects, such as holotypes of extant species, fossils, and historical museum specimens. These natural history objects provide a wealth of information on past and present biodiversity. Because collection and/or conservation techniques might alter the objects in ways that could negatively influence the outcomes of future research, a detailed report of the methodologies used from acquisition to conservation of specimens is crucial. Despite the importance of such reports, until recently, no specific scientific publications existed for museum technicians and scientists to share knowledge between each other.

The Journal of Paleontological Techniques publishes a wide variety of articles, ranging from excavation reports and papers on preparation techniques to new methodologies in collection management and scientific study, among others. Manuscripts are subjected to peer-review to ensure scientific standards. Papers are published as single-paper volumes upon final approval of the proofs, and are available as .pdf under a CC-BY license.

The editorial board currently consists of an international group of early-stage scientists. Most editors have a palaeontological background, however, all have a unique expertise within that field (e.g. microscopy, photogrammetry, phylogeny, morphometrics, preparation, and microbiology). JPT welcomes your submissions!

2017, Birmingham:



The Remedial Conservation and Support Jacketing of the Neotype dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus.

Mark R Graham

In March 2017 the Neotype specimen of the Early Jurassic South African prosauropod dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus was appraised and condition reported at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), Johannesburg, in readiness for remedial conservation and re-storage. The work was necessitated by deterioration of the specimen, which was caused by handling over a number of years and an inadequate and failing support mount. Formally numbered BP/1/4934, but more affectionately known to staff as ‘Big Momma’, the specimen was contained within several individual blocks on flimsy support bases and presented various conservation challenges. These included treatment of fractures and cracking across several surfaces of the fossil and the production of clam shell supports to allow for articulated display within the constraints of an existing display cabinet. Part of the brief was to facilitate safer handling and access for researchers. This project was led by the author (MRG) who also trained the curatorial and preparation staff at WITS in the methods and techniques employed. The visit was funded by the Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST), the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences and The University of the Witwatersrand (WITS).

Finding and collecting a dinosaur in an open pit mine – the Fort McMurray nodosaur

Donald M Henderson

In 2011 a shovel operator working in the Suncor Millenium Mine in northern Alberta bumped into an exceptionally preserved armoured dinosaur contained in a single, very large concretion. The force of impact of the bucket knocked many pieces off the concretion, resulting in a period of 2 days of searching by hand through rubble for small pieces before collection of the remaining fossil could begin. The position of the remainder, located 8m up in a vertical cliff, required the use of a variety of heavy equipment to expose the specimen before it could be collected. After partly exposing the concretion, a high-pressure water and vacuum system was used to remove the last of the softer matrix, and to undercut the concretion. The rapid development of the concretion around the carcass soon after the animal’s death, prevented the fossil from becoming permineralized. This unexpected lack of mechanical strength of the specimen, due to the very soft nature of the skeleton and armour, led to the collapse of the concretion into multiple pieces when it was lifted. The remaining pieces were then collected by stabilizing exposed surfaces with a penetrant stabilizer, and then using standard burlap and plaster jackets. Some of the larger, fractured pieces were held together with various webbing and ratchet-straps prior to jacketing. An 800km return trip by road to the Museum required novel packing and stabilizing methods to avoid abrasion and vibration problems.

Replicating the 1.8m long skull of Pliosaurus carpenteri for display.

Nigel R Larkin

The type specimen of Pliosaurus carpenteri from Westbury in Wiltshire is the most complete skeleton of its genus known, with an estimated body length of 8m. The whole skeleton was mounted for display at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery in 2017 for the first time since its excavation in 1994. However, the skull is 1.8 m long, very heavy and consists of sixteen fragile pieces. Mounting the real skull in position would have required a large amount of unsightly supporting metalwork that would have obscured some very interesting pathology on the pallete. One option was to CT-scan the skull pieces and mount 3D prints of the subsequent digital models. This would present less risk to the specimen than traditional moulding and casting and could possibly be quicker and cheaper. Importantly, the process would also provide 3D morphological data of the skull’s internal anatomy for research for the first time. But would the resulting replica look real or horribly fake? After CT scanning the skull pieces, replicas were 3D-printed in gypsum and acrylic using a powder based 3D printer. After mounting these pieces together with internal metalwork, the replica was coloured with artists’ acrylic paints to match the fossil. Casts of the teeth were adhered in position, which would have been problematic if the real skull had been used. Satisfyingly, at the opening of the exhibition many well-known palaeontologists viewing the specimen failed to recognise that the skull they were looking at was in fact a replica. It passed.


Recording the uncollectable with low cost low tech: successful photogrammetry in the field using a mobile phone to create digital 3D models

Nigel Larkin1 & Steven Dey2         

1Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, UK, 2Thinksee3d Ltd,   Eynsham, UK

There are many different ways to record the three-dimensional morphology of a specimen in detail. Most techniques rely on expensive, cumbersome and delicate equipment requiring a power supply. However, if a very large and heavy fossil or geological feature in the field cannot easily be removed to a museum or is in danger of imminent loss it would be very useful to be able record the three-dimensional morphology of the find accurately and in detail there and then with readily available low-cost equipment and with simple techniques.  Fortunately, experimentation has shown that photogrammetry using a standard 5-megapixel mobile phone digital camera can produce very good quality digital 3D models of specimens in the field (such as short dinosaur trackways) that are useful for research. Unlike some scanning methods this also provides a photographic overlay to the morphological model creating, effectively, a 3D photographic record of the specimen and surrounding context. Even specimens larger than 1 m2 can be recorded to a level of sub-millimetre resolution with such a device in reasonable lighting conditions and if the relevant photographic techniques and image processing techniques are well understood. The software required to convert the photographs into 3D models is readily available and low cost. Current mobile phone cameras can even produce results that are better than digital SLR cameras in some low light conditions and they are improving every year. As most people have a mobile phone with them on fieldwork, with a little training anyone can undertake scientifically useful 3D scans.


Project Airless: addressing the problem of pyrite oxidation in a large fossil collection

Kieran Miles

The Natural History Museum in London holds around 7 million fossils, a diverse collection of huge scientific and historical importance. The Conservation Centre is responsible for a wide range of specimen care issues, including those affecting the palaeontology collections. One of the most serious of these problems is pyrite oxidation. Pyrite, a form of iron sulphide, can often be found in fossils or their surrounding matrix. Oxidation occurs when unstable pyrite, often in its microcrystalline form, reacts with atmospheric oxygen and water. This reaction is accelerated at relative humidity above 60%, and produces a variety of harmful by-products, usually comprising ferrous sulphate, hydrogen sulphide and sulphuric acid. Airless, a three year project that started in August 2015, aims to address this problem. The goal is to identify, treat and prevent pyrite oxidation in the Earth Science collections. A small team of conservation technicians are surveying the collections looking for signs of pyrite decay. Affected specimens are taken to a dedicated lab space where remedial treatments, such as dry brushing or ammonia vapour treatment, are carried out, before re-storage of specimens in anoxic microenvironments. These are individually hand-made using barrier film, with oxygen scavenging sachets added to remove oxygen from the sealed bag. In addition, the project has a digitisation aspect, with the use of web-based applications, improving the museum’s database with high-quality photographs that partly compensate for the reduced physical access to the specimens. To date, the team has completed work on nearly 3000 specimens, including ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and pterosaurs.

Blood, sweat, and vinegar: Acetic acid preparation of cetacean fossils yields exceptional results

Tim Ziegler, Erich MG Fitzgerald, Matthew R McCurry, James L Goedert

Apprehensions about long preparation time, cost of consumables and even personal safety often cause researchers and institutions to eschew the use of acid to prepare fossils in favour of a mechanical approach. Indeed, inconsistently applied chemical preparation protocols can rapidly permit irreversible fossil corrosion. This is seen as particularly pertinent in the preparation of cetacean fossils, which are vulnerable due to their large size, thin neocortex and abundant trabecular bone. We show these factors are mitigable by a methodology employing briefer acid immersions, longer neutralisation times and systematic consolidation and protection of exposed bone. Museums Victoria has accelerated a technical programme preparing Cenozoic marine tetrapods including cetaceans, pinnipeds and birds, following prior institutional advances in the preparation of three-dimensionally preserved Devonian placoderms and Cretaceous mammal microfossils. As an example, we present the cranium and tympanoperiotics of an allodelphinid odontocete, cf. Arktocara (NMV P252767), collected in a calcareous concretion by James L. Goedert from the Upper Oligocene Lincoln Creek Formation (Grays Harbor County, Washington, USA). Cetacean fossils from the North Pacific are notoriously difficult to prepare, due to bioerosion by siboglinid Osedax worms and subsequent tectonisation of sediments along the Pacific active margin. This specimen was prepared primarily with acetic acid over 13 months, with exceptional anatomical detail retained to a degree not achievable mechanically or by less-stringent acid protocols. This is shown by comparisons with examples of previously prepared North Pacific cetacean fossils, and of acid corrosion on an Australian Cretaceous ichthyosaur, Miocene marsupial megafauna, and an in-preparation Miocene odontocete.


2018, Manchester:

An introduction to “The Association for Materials and Methods in Palaeontology” (AMMP) meeting.

Vicen Carrió

National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh

For more than 10 years I have been lucky to be able to attend the AMMP meetings. Originally known as Fossil Preparation and Collections Symposium, in 2015 the name was changed to AMMP to try to open the meeting to other areas of great importance when preparing fossils such as packing, adhesives, materials and preventative conservation. In my talk I would like to introduce you to this association and give you a taste of what a five day conference can provide. The conference is set up in a way to provide different activities to enhance and learn new techniques and tips in the conservation and preparation of fossil material. On the first day you are able to choose between workshops such as Jacketing and cradle, teaching observational, tactile skills and databases or undertaking fieldtrips to a Conservation Centre (if available) or a local “must see” visitor attraction. The second day is the Symposia - Two sessions on specific topics. This year the subjects were Conservation of In-situ Sites and Health and Safety (delegates are encouraged to attend). On the third day there are more workshops: Basic moulding and casting, advanced moulding and casting techniques and materials, consolidant/adhesive topics and various preventive conservation methods. The fourth day is the General Sessions Day, with oral presentations and posters on all aspects of fossil preparation, conservation and collections care. Finally, the main field trip – This year we visited the Ashfall Fossil -Miocene wildlife: Rhinos, horses, camels and other mammals preserved in-situ in their death positions.

Challenging preparation of a plesiosaur skeleton from a stressed nodule

Richard Forrest


Preparation of fossil vertebrates can be a complex and demanding process. Every specimen presents a different suite of challenges. This talk is about the preparation of a partial plesiosaur skeleton in stellarated nodule from Bed 10 of the Oxford Clay, well-known for the number of well-preserved marine reptiles it has yielded over the past two centuries. This was a particularly challenging specimen. The nodule is riddled with veins of calcite, and highly stressed due to overburden pressure and the processes of nodule formation. It fractures unpredictably, sometimes for no apparent direct reason. The parts that break off are usually slightly distorted as their internal stress is released, and don’t fit cleanly to the scar from which they originate. Parts of the nodular material are very pyritic and harder than the bone it contains. A number of different methods were attempted during the preparation, some successful others not. This is not intended as a demonstration on how to prepare such a difficult fossil. It is an account of the highs and lows encountered during the processes and the lessons learned from them. Despite all the problems, preparation has uncovered interesting information on the life history of the animal and its demise.

The air-abrasive technique: re-evaluation of its use in fossil preparation

Mark Graham & Lu Allington-Jones

Natural History Museum, London

In 2017 new experiments were devised to assess the effect of air abrasion on matrix and fossil material using various types of powder across a range of delivery angles and differing air pressure settings. The experiments incorporated for the first time Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) photography and 3-dimensional profiling on matrix coated with consolidant and copper powder to enable visual assessment and also on a piece of fossil bone. The abrasive effect of powder flow at the point of impact and immediately surrounding area on the test matrix, and damage across the surface of the bone fragment were revealed at the electron microscopic level and documented for the first time, together with microscopic comparison of the powder particles before and after use. The review incorporates information taken from the application of airabrasion in the fields of conservation and industry, as these provide valuable insights to the fossil preparator. Also part of the review, an international online survey of preparators was undertaken and 84 individuals from 12 countries contributed information about powder types used, micron particle size selection, the availability and use of equipment, preferred techniques, personal protective clothing and other health and safety related issues. The replies were drawn from professional, avocational and amateur preparators. The results of both the laboratory experiments and the international survey are soon to be published and will include practical advice on materials, techniques, laboratory set-up and health & safety considerations.

Rescuing an Early Cretaceous plesiosaur from an active tar sand mine

Donald Henderson

In June of 2018 the Royal Tyrrell Museum received notice of a fossil reptile being discovered in the Syncrude tarsand mine 25km north of Fort McMurray in northeastern Alberta, Canada. A team of four people from the Museum – one curator and three technicians – were dispatched to recover the specimen. Prior to commencement of work, all four museum staff had to complete an online safety course and complete a final exam with minimum pass score of 80%. Furthermore, one of the technicians had to complete a “mine safe driving course”. The specimen was found as a series of large (50+ kg) irregularly shaped blocks of a once whole concretion with bone exposed on the all broken internal surfaces. The fossil bone was not permineralized, so a penetrant stabilizer was immediately applied to all the exposed bone. Final bone protection was provided with medical grade plaster bandages (“Gypsonas”). Some of the exposed bone and broken edges required full plaster and burlap jacketing for protection during extraction and later transport. With the aid of a tracked excavator, its toothed bucket, and a skilled operator, each of the heavy blocks was wrestled into the bucket, lifted up, and then wrestled into the back of a Museum vehicle. The density and total mass of the concretionary blocks was seriously underestimated, and we found we were 800kg over the gross vehicle weight limit. Five of the offending blocks were shipped south at a later date.

The Biddulph Grange geology gallery project: restoring a unique display from 1862 that encapsulates an important stage in the history of the development of geological thinking

Nigel R. Larkin


In 1862 just three years after Darwin published ‘On the Origin of Species’, Oxford-educated James Bateman (of the Royal Society) created a new entrance to his famous gardens at Biddulph Grange, near Stoke. This was a long stone corridor with 75 fossils set into the wall on one side, from graptolites and ferns to ichthyosaurs and a mammoth tusk in rough stratigraphical order. However, they were arranged in six bays titled Day 1 to Day 6 and represented the days of Creation. Bateman’s thinking was directly influenced by Hugh Miller, in particular his theory of Genesis and Geology Compared, and the gallery was designed to show how the newly discovered fossil record could be reconciled with the bible. Although open to the public for several years, unfortunately the gallery became forgotten after Bateman sold his estate and apart from ten original specimens the fossils eventually deteriorated or disappeared. Now a National Trust property, over the last few years the gallery has been renovated. The ten original specimens have been cleaned, conserved and moulded to make casts for reinstating on the wall. With no records of the original gallery to guide us in filling the remaining 65 holes we have borrowed museum specimens of species described by 1862 that are from sites known by that date that are appropriate for their position in the gallery, to be as authentic as possible. Replicas of these were made to complete the gallery which uniquely captures a specific moment in the development of geology.

Using theatre skills in a science exhibition: Dinosaurs of China in Nottingham

Martin Nunn and Adam S. Smith

Nottingham City Museums and Galleries

Dinosaurs of China was a world-exclusive temporary exhibition of iconic, mostly feathered dinosaur fossils, which have revolutionised our understanding of dinosaur appearance and biology over the last 20 years. Hunter the Sinraptor was a puppeteer-operated semianimatronic theropod dinosaur costume. Hunter, accompanied by Dinosaur Rangers, publicised the exhibition within Nottingham and beyond, visited schools to explore dinosaur ecology, and interacted with visitors to the exhibition. The process of putting this element of the exhibition into place included procurement of the costume, ‘Dino-Factor’ auditions to find a skilled puppeteer, and recruitment of volunteer Rangers. Hunter and the Rangers contributed towards exhibition marketing and the public learning experience. There is an extensive body of literature on the value of integrating dramatic arts into schools and museums, and our findings add to this body of evidence. Hunter inspired engagement with science in formal and informal settings. However, the dinosaur had mixed impacts on visitor expectations, with some anticipating animatronics to feature within the exhibition itself. In conclusion, we show that if used with care, theatre and performance skills can boost marketing and enhance scientifically rigorous learning experiences.

From China to Nottingham: the making of Dinosaurs of China

Adam S. Smith1 and Wang Qi2

  1. Nottingham Natural History Museum, Wollaton Hall
  2. University of Nottingham

In summer 2017, Nottingham hosted a collection of Chinese fossils that told the story of dinosaur evolution from scaly ground shakers to modern birds. This world-exclusive one-time-only Dinosaurs of China exhibition was the outcome of a multi-partnership between the University of Nottingham, Nottingham City Council, the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology & Paleoanthropology, and the Longhao Institute of Geology and Paleontology Inner Mongolia. The exhibition combined Nottingham-based collections with loaned fossils and casts of Chinese dinosaurs and birds, including real type specimens of feathered dinosaurs (Microraptor guiand Caudipteryx dongi) and the tallest cast of a dinosaur skeleton ever displayed in the UK (a rearing Mamenchisaurus). Many of the specimens were on display outside of Asia for the first time. To bring the dinosaurs to Nottingham, the project team overcame the challenges of designing, curating, transporting, and installing an exhibition in the unusual setting of an Elizabethan mansion. Dinosaurs of China received 115,000 visitors in its four-month duration and has helped to foster the identity of Nottingham, especially Wollaton Hall, as a venue for natural science.


SPPC 2019 Isle of Wight

Controlled exsiccation of fossilised remains in waterlogged marl: Slowly Slowly Dryee Squiddie, Allington-Jones

Palaeontological preparation facilities in UK universities: the north south divide? Challands, Brusatte & Wood

A combination of air abrasion and ultrasonic preparation reveals fine details ahead of scanning electron microscopy, in fossil ophiuroids, Graham & Ewin

Cold climate collection of Cretaceous creatures in Canada, Henderson

13 years of preparing Danish fossils, a retrospective, Osbæck

A new technique for sampling plant debris beds from the Early Cretaceous Wealden Group of southern England, Penn

Controlled exsiccation of fossilised remains in waterlogged marl: Slowly Slowly Dryee Squiddie


The Natural History Museum, Conservation

A fossil from a squid-like animal, preserved in Lower Jurassic argillaceous limestone or marl, was collected on the 8th March 2019 from Lyme Regis beach. The collectors kept the specimen wet by wrapping it in newspaper and plastic, and transported it to the Conservation Centre at the Natural History Museum in London (UK). Conservators partially immersed the block in water, with a few drops of thymol to prevent mould growth, whilst tests on samples of the matrix were undertaken. Two consolidants were selected from the field of waterlogged archaeological artefact conservation: Primal WS24 and PEG 400. Untreated and consolidated samples were variously dried rapidly in ambient lab conditions or dried slowly within Dartek C-917 semi-permeable cast nylon film microenvironments. Both consolidation and slow drying proved beneficial but insufficient to prevent cracking entirely. A double layer of film was then considered, to slow the drying-time even further. The entire specimen block was then consolidated by immersion in 10% and then 33% Primal WS24 before slowdrying in a double-layer Dartek C-917 film microclimate. Primal WS24 was selected in preference to PEG 400 because the former would be compatible with Paraloid B72 in acetone (if future remedial conservation becomes necessary). After drying, parts of the surface of the block were prepared using a split-V ultrasonic tool, to expose more of the nacre layer, and the lower half of the block was removed using rotary tools to minimise vibration.

Palaeontological preparation facilities in UK universities: the north south divide?


University of Edinburgh, School of Geosciences

Palaeontological preparation facilities in university departments are sadly often lacking and where present unfortunately frequently do not have a permanent member of staff or a trained preparator to manage the facilities or conduct preparation. With micro CT-scanning becoming the preferred method of fossil analysis alongside ‘digital preparation’ the need, or perhaps desire, to actively maintain a program of physically preparing fossil specimens may not be regarded so importantly. Information from all UK universities involved in active palaeontological research shows that most institutions do have some form of rudimentary preparation facilities but those that do have an active palaeontological preparation program are not evenly distributed geographically. We announce a new palaeontology preparation facility in the University of Edinburgh, School of Geosciences that represents the only such facility in a Scottish university. As part of the PalAlba consortium of academic scientists, conservation specialists, and collectors working together to recover, record and research fossils from Scotland, and our aim is to provide a facility for students to develop palaeontological preparation techniques alongside the theoretical side of palaeontological research. We present some examples of material that has been processed in this new facility and describe the set-up for this preparation.

A combination of air abrasion and ultrasonic preparation reveals fine details ahead of scanning electron microscopy, in fossil ophiuroids


1 - Natural History Museum, The Conservation Centre, 2 - Natural History Museum, Earth Sciences Dept

Multiple well preserved fossil ophiuroids (brittle stars) within blocks of consolidated sandy clay from the Atherfield Clay Formation of the Isle of Wight, were fully exposed to facilitate taxonomic study by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).Their preparation required the removal of covering matrix; complicated by the entanglement of the arms of multiple specimens, the need to retain delicate taxonomically important spines and dermal plates, as well as exposing plate boundaries whilst minimising any damage to the plate surfaces (stereomes).

The specimens were also small; discs varied from 2mm to 10mm with arms up to 20 mm in length. Thus air abrasion was undertaken under a stereoscopic microscope with illumination. The optimal abrading set-up was sodium bicarbonate No.4 particle size (50 microns) delivered at 2.5bar/35 p.s.i. via a 0.75mm diameter air abrasive nozzle. The areas surrounding the specimens’ arms were trenched by air abrasion to reveal the surfaces and sides; effectively mini-pedestalled in relief on the blocks. The central discs were air abraded to expose mouthparts, ossicles, spines and plate boundaries.

Industrial metholated spirit (I.M.S.) was applied to highlight surface detail during preparation; this evaporated after a couple of minutes and left no residue on the specimens, but enabled finer details to be developed. In order to facilitate detailed SEM of individual arm plates, several pieces were removed from the blocks and placed in small, sealable plastic specimen bags with a few drops of water. The exterior of the bags were then touched with the tip of an ultrasonic pen, (Sonotec Split V) which removed the remaining matrix from the plate boundaries very effectively. This combination of techniques fully exposed all the elements required for full taxonomic study without causing severe damage and should be more widely applied to other echinoderm fossils in order to retain as much taxonomic information as possible.

Cold climate collection of Cretaceous creatures in Canada


Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

In February of 2016 staff at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology were informed about Early Cretaceous fossil bone that was recovered from drill core at a depth of 33.6m at the Suncor oilsand mine in northern Alberta, but were told to wait at least two years before the working face of the mine got to the drill hole. Finally, in February 2019 a crew of four was able to make the 800km drive from the Museum to the mine site. At the start of the work, daytime temperatures were in the -25C range so special precautions were going to be needed to safely and completely collect the as yet unidentified specimen. Large excavation machines were engaged for four days to dig a very large hole with the correct slopes for stability. The precise coordinates of the drill hole enabled a targeted excavation. Final exposure of the specimen was done with an electric jackhammer and hand tools. The drill hole had pierced almost the exact centre of a scattered and incomplete plesiosaur skeleton. A portable shed was temporarily used to trap warm air from a hot air source to enable plaster and glues to set and cure properly. After a week temperatures rose to around -10C, so the shed was removed. To provide daytime heat warm air was ducted directly down into the pit and blown directly on the fossil remains in the ground and the crew. At night a tarp covered the excavation and the warm air was directed and trapped under the tarp to keep the rocks and fossil warm enough for glues and plaster to behave and set properly, and to keep water warm for making plaster. The resulting plaster jackets were also kept insulated and warm during their curing process before being lifted out of the pit by heavy equipment.

13 years of preparing Danish fossils, a retrospective


Museum Salling, Conservation

I have had the privilege working with some of the most spectacular fossils found in the last decade in Denmark. Working at Museernes Bevaringscenter I Skive with specimens from Fossil og Molermuseet and Fur Museum I have had many lovely fossils on my prep. table. Fishes, turtles, birds and a couple of whales, mostly originating from the Eocene Fur Formation in northern Denmark. Once in my lab, the usual procedure was used. Hammer and chisel, diamond rotating tools and heavy pneumatic tools, using ”finer” tools when working closer to the fossil surface, dental tools, scalpels and so on. The preparation of the finest details would normally be with Acetic acid preparation buffered with Calcium orthophosphate. The preservation of the fossils often, with preserved soft tissues, would be a real challenge. I will talk about my techniques and give a broad view of my work over the years.

A new technique for sampling plant debris beds from the Early Cretaceous Wealden Group of southern England


University of Portsmouth, Earth and Environmental Science

Sampling techniques of Wealden Group plant debris beds often target specific micro-vertebrate, invertebrate or palaeobotanical assemblages. This specific targeting of microfossils inevitably results in a bias and the potential loss of important palaeontological data. A new method combining acid digestion, salt floatation and ultra-violet light illumination allows plant debris beds to be comprehensively sampled for their entire fossil assemblage. The use of traditional sieving techniques often leads to the abrasion and destruction of specimens. This multi stage method results in the retrieval of delicate, exceptionally preserved plant material, amber, plant cuticle and micro-vertebrates.