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Friday, June 1 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Natural History Collections) Touring Nature’s Treasures:The Conservation Challenges of Touring and Displaying Natural History Specimens

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Since the Natural History Museum, in London, opened to the public in 1881 it has established itself at the forefront of natural history research and public engagement. This has involved a long history of in-house exhibition as well as international loan and touring exhibitions. The ambition and scale of these touring exhibitions has recently been raised substantially with the emphasis on display of original material. This presentation will focus on the first, and most complex, of these “specimen rich” touring exhibitions and the associated conservation challenges. Treasures of the Natural World is a collaborative exhibition containing specimens selected from the 80 million collection items housed within several scientific departments at the museum.This included herbaria sheets, taxidermy, palaeontology, insects, gems and meteorites plus works of art on paper. Over three-hundred collection items required conservation evaluation and in some cases remedial treatment. The size of some specimens ranging from a complete Giant Ground Sloth skeleton to a small selection of iridescent orchid bees, raised logistical challenges and risks for their transport and display. In addition, the touring of Natural History specimens creates interesting challenges for care and conservation with the need to balance the differing display requirements of different materials. An understanding of material properties and deterioration was essential for the safe treatment, transportation and display of these specimens. The environmental and lighting requirements for all specimens had to be assessed and managed while enabling the grouping of specimens within their individual stories. In addition, careful conservation of specimens needed to be undertaken to ensure their stability for transportation between multiple venues over up to a five year period. Alongside these challenges, touring natural history specimens also raise unique concerns in relation to the transportation of fluid preserved specimens, specimens controlled by CITES regulations and inherently hazardous materials. An understanding of the health and safety issues surrounding natural history specimens was also integral to the safety of team members. This presentation will discuss the Conservation team’s response to these challenges and how our understanding of the varied nature of the materials impacted on these responses and outcomes.


Gillian Comerford

Senior Conservator, The Natural History Museum
Gill leads the Preventive Conservation team for the Natural History Museum, London. Her particular interests are in developing strategies to reduce rates of decay in Natural History collections. She manages a team of Conservators that have a wide ranging skill sets from Conservation... Read More →
avatar for Nicola Harrison

Nicola Harrison

Conservator, The Natural History Museum
Nikki works as a Conservator at the Natural History Museum focusing on the care and conservation of the museum's collections. Nikki completed her conservation training at University College London, leaving with an MSc in Conservation for Archaeology and Museums in 2013. Before the... Read More →

avatar for Lorraine Cornish

Lorraine Cornish

Head of Conservation, Natural History Museum
Lorraine is Head of Conservation at the Natural History Museum managing a team of 22 working across five conservation facilities which care for the museum's 80 million collection items. She led a team which recently won the prestigious 2016 Keck award for Conservation by the International... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:00pm - 4:30pm MDT
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston