Making Items Last

Today at the National Museum of Natural History we met with Hans Sues, Senior Scientist and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology. He gave us a wonderful tour through two exhibition galleries. He noted though the complexity of preserving items on display and meeting certain codes within an institution. For example, Hans noted that preservation of fish has changed over the last few decades. Early fermentation methods were carcinogenic and could lead to other nasty issue. The museum also has a rule that no more than 5 gallons of alcohol can be in an exhibition. A tiny fish has the ability to take us about 1 gallon according to Hans, which means you will need to find other ways to display your organic creatures. He showed us dioramas, models, and my personal favorite, a large salt water aquarium as display options. What is better than seeing the actual fish swimming about!

During his discussion about finding preservation/fermentation agents, Hans noted that they collaborated with 3M in finding such a suitable serum, which they did! It is also far healthier to the user handling the specimens too.

I had never considered 3M in the world of museums (beside the PostIt notes I always use). If I was in that frame of mind when I learned of 3M’s help, I am sure many others were too. How many other companies are we overlooking in our field as possible innovators and problem solvers for such issues we face daily in our museums? I would probably never had considered 3M when trying to figure out a new preservation liquid, yet they created one!

We all have our favorite store or grocery store we prefer to shop at, and I feel that is similar with museums too, but I feel that today was a good example of the innovative possibilities that can happen when museums collaborate with outside sources and businesses.


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