Developing New Methods for Recoloring Faded Taxidermy
In addition to thorough condition examination and photographic documentation, conservation treatment decisions should begin with a clear proposal to be approved by Collections Managers, Curators, or other stakeholders prior to beginning hands-on work. Caitlin submitted the following treatment proposal to the Mammalogy Department for the treatment of the lemur mount.
Once the treatment proposal was approved, she carried out the conservation treatment and recorded each step (described below). The reports and photographs generated during conservation treatments are archived in the Museum for future reference for conservators, researchers, and department staff.
Treatment began with surface cleaning the specimen overall using a variable speed HEPA vacuum at a low setting with micro attachments and an eyebrow comb.
In the process, hairs around the seam matted with a dark brown/yellow accretion were exposed. Solvent tests were conducted using cotton swabs dampened with three cleaning solutions: a 1:1 mixture of deionized (DI) water and ethanol; mineral spirits; and a 1% solution of Surfynol 61 dissolved into a 1:1 mixture of DI water and ethanol. Although each solvent removed some of the brown/yellow accretion, mineral spirits was most effective. The accretion removal process began by placing small triangles of cotton blotter paper under the hairs. We then brushed mineral spirits onto the accretion. The blotter paper served to absorb the solvent and the loosened accretion. The white blotter paper also acted as a visual guide to ensure that the hairs were sufficiently cleaned of the dark accretion before moving to the next section. Once the hair was cleaned and dry, the specimen was gently groomed using an eyebrow comb.
Next we humidified the proper left (PL) ear and the detached fragment because both of them were desiccated and curled inward. The humidification was done using a small vapor chamber created from in a layer of Gore-Tex (a semi-permeable membrane that allows vapor through, but not water), a piece of blotter paper dampened with DI water, and a thin polyethylene bag. The Gore-Tex barrier was laid over the skin and the dampened blotter was secured on top of the Gore-Tex using a hair clip. A polyethylene bag was then placed on top of both layers to seal them into a chamber. The skin was checked approximately every 15 minutes for the duration of one hour until it was relaxed and pliable enough to be re-formed. The humidified skin was re-shaped and allowed to dry in proper alignment with the help of a rigid piece of dry blotter paper.
To reattach the ear fragment we used BEVA 371 film. Small strips of film were tucked between the layers of the epidermis on both the fragment and attached ear. The film was then warmed using a variable heat spatula, which set the adhesive. To protect the skin from direct heat contact, silicone release Mylar was used as an interleave.
Reattachment of the PL hand required use of Japanese tissue paper lining impregnated with BEVA 371. A bamboo skewer bent at a 45° angle was used to help apply pressure to the tissue while applying the heat spatula to the opposite side.
Losses on the repaired hand were filled using a small piece of coyote hide with bleached and toned fur. Faber Castell Pitt artist pens were used for toning, and excess ink was removed with blotter paper. The fill was adhered with BEVA 371 film.
To restore the damaged nose, we sculpted a reconstruction using Paraloid F-10 heavily bulked with glass microballoons. The bulked resin was cast out onto a sheet of silicone release Mylar into the desired shape and thickness. After two days the bulked resin was pliable, but not sticky, and could be shaped without slumping. The reconstruction was formed to fit on top of the existing damaged nose. Once hard, it was smoothed using micromesh and toned with Golden acrylic paint. It it held in position by friction, and can easily be lifted/removed with a microspatula or bamboo skewer.
Finally, we constructed a new storage mount for the specimen. The specimen was previously stored in an upright position with an L-shaped storage base. This orientation was optimum for the the specimen, as it placed the least amount of stress on the specimen and posed the least risk to the disruption of the hair, but the limited space in collection storage required a different solution. After confirming that the habitat base could be altered in a non-visible way, we drilled two small holes into the display branch, inserted brass rods, and positioned the rods into a plywood base, elevating the specimen slightly above the board. An ethafoam block supports the proper right hand of the specimen and branch. The new storage solution allows the specimen to be stored horizontally, while protecting the fur from being crushed.