SPPC 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.
SPPC 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.
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.
SPPC 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.
SPPC 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.
Reeling in a big Jurassic fish. Jeff Liston and Dave Martill.
What lies beneath the cat scanner digital images? part I, a technical procedure for finding and locating a hidden embryo in a dinosaur egg MONTESDEOCA, Roberto Quevedo and CALDITO, Francisco Gomez, Spain
The re-discovery of a lost holotype Stenopterygius acutirostris - its acquisition and conservation history. Sandra Chapman and Adrian Doyle.
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
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
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
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.
SPPC 2004 Leicester
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Palaeontology. Adrian Doyle.
- Improving consolidant effectiveness: A capillary based method for evaluating and monitoring consolidant concentration. Tim J. Fedak.
- A new preparation tool - the Split-V. James Fletcher.
- Curation history and mineralisation of a highly degraded pyrite fossil collection. Emily Hodgkinson.
- The dismantling and cleaning of the Sedgwick Museums Iguanodon. Sarah Finney and Leslie Noè.
- The history and preparation of the enigmatic dinosaur Hylaeosaurus armatus BMNH R 3375. Sandra Chapman and David Gray.
- Mineralisation of highly degraded pyrite fossil collection. Susan Martin
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.
Palaeontology Conservation Unit, Department of Palaeontology, The Natural
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.
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
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.
Emily Hodgkinson, Sue Martin and Mike Howe
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.
Leslie Noé1 and Sarah Finney2
1 The Sedgwick Museum, Department of Earth Sciences, The University of
2 The A.G. Brighton Conservation Unit, The Sedgwick Museum, Department of
Earth Sciences, The University of Cambridge, Madingley Rise, Cambridge CB3
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.
SPPC 2003 Oxford
- Conservation of a Jurassic Marine Reptile. Caroline Buttler.
- Mechanical preparation techniques: a review of modern equipment. Adrian Doyle.
- Running noses - lifesize reconstruction of Nasobema lyricum. Michaela Forthuber.
- The preliminary preparation of a Tendaguru brachiosaur. David Gray.
- Constructing a diorama: The landscape of north Hesse State about 250 million years ago. Susanne Henssen.
- Building a model of Psittacosaurus on the basis of a beautifully preserved specimen. Bernd Herkner.
- Conservation of proboscidean tusks. Nigel Larkin.
- Old glue and old bones, or how the Leeds collection was stuck together. Sarah Finney and Leslie Noè.
- Virtual fossils: 3D digital reconstructions from serial sections. Mark Sutton , Derek E.G. Briggs, David J. Siveter, Derek J. Siveter
- Long term preventive conservation of the Shropshire County Museum Service geological collections - the geological elements of the Ludlow Museum resource Centre. Kate Andrew.
- A review of modern palaeontological preparation equipment. Adrian Doyle
- S. Airflow S1 airbrasive machine. Eric Milsom.
- Deep in Grube Messel. Eric Milsom.
- Base camp to Summit Team. Eric Milsom.
- From Dragons to Sparrows: The media and the evolution of the dinosaur image. Luis Rey.
- Palaeoart exhibition. Bob Nicholls.
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.
Caroline Buttler, Department of Geology, National Museums & Galleries of Wales.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Leslie Noe1 , Sarah Finney1 & JeffListon2
- 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.
Mark Sutton 1, Derek E.G. Briggs2, David J. Siveter-3, Derek J. Siveter4 ·
- 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.
SPPC 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.
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.
SPPC 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.
SPPC 2007 Glasgow
- Creating the vertebrate palaeontological displays for the Kelvingrove Museum. John-Paul Sumner.
- Historical gluemaking, and implications for conservation.
- The rather naive idea of forming a museum on the Jurassic Coast. Steve Etches.
- Fake Rock, Real sand: The making of the exhibition ‘Sahara - Living Desert'’. Michaela Forthuber.
- The virtual and physical preparation of the Collard Plesiosaur. Nigel Larkin.
- Palaeontological preservation with 21st century documentation: using photogrammetry to produce highly detailed 3D image models. Neffra Matthews
- The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: Preparation from the Wild West. Cindy Howells.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Neffra A. Matthews and Brent H. Breithaupt
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.
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.
SPPC 2008 Dublin
- A preliminary investigation into the removal and remedial conservation of labels from fossil specimens. Felicity Bolton and Paolo Viscardi.
- Environmental damage to palaeontological specimens. Adrian Doyle and Ana Citores.
- Blood, sweat and scars for life- the complications of comparative shark material. Emma Nicholls.
- A Triceratops skull in Birmingham at 50 and 100: discovered 1908, transported 1958. Leslie Noè.
- The effectiveness of Synocryl 9123s during the acid preparation process. Melissa Schiele.
- Fossil preparation skills: available information for both ‘amateur’ and pro. Remmert Schouten.
- The pilot conservation of two Blaschka glass models of micro-organisms. Liesa Stertz.
- A new suit for the Dublin pliosaur. Scott Moore-Fay
Felicity Bolton and Paolo Viscardi
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.
Adrian M. Doyle and Ana Citores
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
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.
Emma-Louise Nicholls and Charlie Underwood
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.
Leslie F. Noè1 and Arthur R. I. Cruickshank2
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.
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).
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 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.
SPPC 2009 Bristol
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
SPPC 2010 Cambridge
- Infacol – if it’s good enough for babies, it’s good enough for ammonites. Christian Baars.
- The joy of steel: How to master your awkward fossil in the field. Nigel Larkin.
- Mechanical and chemical preparation methods used on the lower Eocene cementstone concretions from the Mo-Clay of northern Denmark. Frank Osbaeck.
- Preservation potential of elasmobranchs. Trine Sørensen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SPPC 2011 Lyme Regis
2011, Lyme Regis:
- Bringing sea dragons back to life: 200 years on from Anning, Conybeare and De La Beche. Mark Evans.
- Accessing palaeontology in a local museum. Phil Hadland.
- The UK continental shelf on the move: transferring two major core sample collections. Mike Howe.
- Resourcing palaeontological collection care in a time of crisis: the legacy of the Earth Science Review 20 years on. Jeff Liston.
- How long? Preparation of the Weymouth Bay pliosaur. Scott Moore-Fay
- Acid preparation of a pond turtle from the Eocene Mo clay formation of northern Denmark. Frank Osbaeck.
- Simplifying extraction and cross sectioning of microfossils in unlithified sediment. Trine Sorensen and Martin Abrahamsson
- The Bristol Dinosaur Project – preparation methods. Pedro Viegas.
- Building conservation grade support systems for the long-term storage of fossil vertebrates. Verveniotou et al.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
SPPC 2012 Oxford
- The Dorset Fossil Code database. Richard Forrest.
- Virtual palaeontology: an introduction. Russell Garwood
- Bad Influence - Acetic Acid Preparation of a Pterosaur in Metamorphosed Limestone. Lu Allington-Jones.
- Going to The Other Side– Acid Preparation of Dinosaur Bones from Atherfield Bay. Lu Allington-Jones.
- Mechanical Preparation of Oligocene Fishes. Mark Graham
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Previous talks at SPPC
Talks and posters presented over the years at the Symposium on Palaeontological Preparation and Conservation (SPPC)
- Special care for historical collections – The Timor collection at Naturalis Biodiversity centre (the Netherlands). Natasja den Ouden.
- 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). Galobart Lorente.
- Estimating the volumes and masses of big plaster field jackets. Donald Henderson.
- Why look at fossils in infra-red? Nigel Larkin.
- ‘King Long Dan’: Excavation, export and experience. Jeff Liston.
- The Trento experience: Building life-size models of extinct species and shipping them 1,000 miles to Italy. Bob Nicholls.
- The new palaeobiology store at National Museums Scotland. Andrew Ross
- Pros and cons of restoration. Vicen Carrió
- Storage enhancement of the Palaeontological collection at Facultad de Ciencias (Uruguay): Quaternary vertebrates make the first move. Alejandra Rojas.
- Opening up the dipnoan brain: new insights from the cranial endocast of Dipterus valenciennesi. Tom Challands.
- Challenges encountered during the preparation by acid-resin transfer of fossil fish from Monte Bolca, Italy. Mark Graham.
- Evolutionary history of antlers in Cervidae (Ruminantia, Artiodactyla, Mammalia). Nicola Heckeberg.
- 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.
- Resourcing palaeontological collection care in a time of crisis: The legacy of the Earth Science Review twenty years on. Jeff Liston.
- Preparation of Ardiolus sp? From the Eocene Mo clay in Denmark: New approaches in acid preparation. Frank Osbaeck.
- The Upper Jurassic marine reptiles from Spitzbergen: from field conservation to laboratory preparation. Aubrey Roberts.
- A tale of two Mysticeti. Nigel Larkin
- Using infrared thermal imaging as a collections management tool. Nigel Larkin.
- The NHM Kimmeridge Clay Ichthyosaur Collection Project. Sandra Chapman.
- Fossils, Footprints and fakes. Mark Graham.
- A brief history of the best collection of fossil fish in the world ‘probably’. Emma Bernard.
- ‘Breaking bad’ bone beds: processing the Downton Bone Bed. Luke Hauser.
- Moulding dinosaur tracks on the banks of the St. Mary River in southwestern Alberta. Donald Henderson.
- Leviathan Rising: A new collections curation initiative from the Star Pit dig. Jeff Liston.
- Preparation of a uniquely preserved turtle from the early Eocene Mo clay formation of northern Denmark. Frank Osbaeck.
- Psycho knives and Withers wedges – Excavating a plesiosaur. Richard Forrest.
- Moulding, casting and laser scanning of dinosaur trackways from the Late Cretaceous of Southern Alberta, Canada. Donald Henderson.
- Part seen, part remembered: the preparation, conservation and curatorial challenges of virtually raising Leviathan. Jeff Liston.
- Preparation of vertebrate fossils from the Miocene clay pit in Gram, Denmark. Frank Osbaeck
- A documentation mystification. Emma Nicholls.
- A ton of trouble: cleaning, conserving and mounting a large 300 million year old giant clubmoss plant fossil from north Wales for display. Nigel Larkin & Caroline Buttler.
- The discovery in a museum collection of the largest known skeleton of Ichthyosaurus in the world and its re-display, including 3D printing missing bones. Nigel Larkin, Dean Lomax, Steven Dey, Luanne Meehitiyia & Laura Porro.
- Journal of Palaeontological techniques: a free, open access journal exchanging knowledge between technicians, preparators and researchers. Tschopp.
- Project airless: addressing the problem of pyrite oxidation in a large fossil collection. Kieran Miles.
- Replicating the 1.8m long skull of Pliosaurus carpenteri for display. Nigel Larkin & Steven Dey.
- The remedial conservation and support jacketing of the neotype of the dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus. Mark Graham
- Finding and collecting a dinosaur in an open pit mine - the Fort McMurray nodosaur. Donald Henderson.
- Blood, sweat and vinegar: acetic acid preparation of cetacean fossils yields exceptional results. Tim Ziegler.
- Recording the uncollectable with low cost low tech: Successful photogrammetry in the field using a mobile phone to create digital 3D models. Nigel Larkin & Steven Dey.
- 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 Larkin.
- From China to Nottingham: the making of Dinosaurs of China. Adam Smith.
- Using theatre skills in a science exhibition: Dinosaurs of China in Nottingham. Martin Nunn.
- Challenging preparation of a plesiosaur skeleton from a stressed nodule. Richard Forrest.
- The air-abrasive technique: re-evaluation of its use in fossil preparation. Mark Graham.
- Rescuing an early Cretaceous plesiosaur from an active tar sand mine. Donald Henderson.
- An introduction to ‘The Association for Materials and Methods in Palaeontology’ (AMMP) Meeting. Vicen Carrio.
2019, Isle of Wight:
- Controlled excsiccation of fossilised remains ion waterlogged marl: Slowly, slowly, dryee squiddie. Lu Allington-Jones
- Palaeontological preparation facilities in UK universities: The north south divide? Tom Challands.
- A combination of air abrasion and ultrasonic preparation reveals fine details ahead of scanning electron microscopy in fossil ophiuroids. Mark Graham.
- Cold climate collection of Cretaceous creatures in Canada. Donald Henderson.
- 13 years of preparing Danish fossils, a retrospective. Frank Osbaeck.
- A new technique for sampling plant debris beds from the Early Cretaceous Wealden Group of southern England. Simon Penn.