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.