When I was younger I visited the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter a lot, sometimes once or twice a month as it was free.
The exhibits that appealed to me most were the animals and the shells, the animals were in a big room, a tiger shot by a king, a hippo and a giraffe with, apparently the tail of a cow.
The shells were upstairs in beautiful wooden cabinets that I still covet to this day.
I have just finished my diploma in Conservation (Museum Coservation: The job of being a conservator, who restores and maintains museum exhibits) and am starting the MA in September so I needed a placement. Having got a summer internship with the conservation team at RAMM along with my friend Catherine we are becoming very well acquainted with the shells, there are about 30,000 and all need to be checked and cleaned to go in their snazzy new place once the museum reopens.
We are based in a purpose built building in Exeter and I have been gazing upon deceased animals to my heart's content. Hummingbirds, Hippos and Helix pomatia are all there.
This week has been a good learning curve for me, I've learnt to mix up the conservator's adhesive of choice (paraloid), check a stuffed bird which is going on loan (I did mix up left and right until it was pointed out, oops), look round the textiles department (very very lovely!) as well as cleaning over 400 shells.
Being in the Museum Stores also lets one see things that wouldn't normally be on display, there's a real human skeleton, cabinets of birds eggs, butterflies and moths, and the spirit store where all the animals in jars and bottles are kept, the room smells of formaldehyde and looks somewhat like I imagine Professor Snape's office at Hogwarts to look like.
I also met the Curator of Natural History today who was very interesting and explained to us about how the eating habits of certain thrushes can change the populations of snails with different banding patterns and also told me more about Partula snails and the sadly extinct Quagga! Feel free to ask me any questions about conservation, I'll do my best to answer! (and if I don't know I'll ask people who do)
Fleur's bosses at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum have been kind enough to allow her to write this blog, even though it is not usually their policy to allow such things. We would like to thank them for this, and to point out that all pictures of museum specimens are copyright to the RAMM