We’re halfway through our Animal Attic Project, and the Conservation team, with the help of our Facilities and Natural Science collection colleagues, have been busily beavering away. The gallery has been emptied of specimens, except for our Asian elephant skeleton which stayed put. After a good clean, it has kept us company while we work in the eerily empty gallery.
As soon as the animals left the gallery for their temporary ark elsewhere in the building, the work started in earnest. Our Facilities team came up with a way to lift and move the 22 metre and 24 metre-long wall cases safely so we could clean behind them. We were able to get rid of the old dust and dirt that had accumulated over the decades. A build-up of dust and dirt can put our taxidermy specimens at risk by housing pests that like to feed off the skin, fur and hair of the animals in the display cases. Just like cleaning behind the sofa at home, we found a few surprises, including a copy of the Evening Star from Wednesday 2 September 1908 which had been used to level-up one of the long cases.
With a tight schedule we weren’t able to stop and read for long, however, and work started outside the building too. Electricians and glaziers sealed the skylight windows in the roof of the gallery and changed the existing gallery lights to more energy-efficient LEDs. All this work has to be done from outside the gallery, with our staff and contractors working on the Museum roof using safety harnesses on dry, calm days. While those with a head for heights continue to work on the roof, those of us inside the gallery are working on sealing any gaps and cracks in the wooden panels of the historic cases. We’re using a conservation-grade filler called ‘Flügger’ that will move with the wood over time, and help to keep the cases well-sealed in the future. After it’s dried we’ll paint it to match the surrounding wood so that it doesn’t stand out and take attention away from the amazing animals.
We still have a lot of sealing and cleaning to go, but with the animals gradually starting to reappear in the gallery towards the end of next week we’re heading into the home stretch, ready to re-open the gallery on 17 June.