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1 June 2022

Nigel Larkin, our natural history conservation specialist, has sent us an update on the ongoing whale skeleton conservation project.

The skeletons were thoroughly photographed to record the association of all the bones and how they articulate, and all the bones were labelled with individual numbers.

Then the skeletons were completely taken apart to allow improvement on their armature and deep cleaning of all bones.

The bones are being cleaned under magnification using a specialist compressed air unit. Old holes from previous mounts that are no longer needed were filled in with Japanese tissue paper and neutral pH conservation adhesive, a process that can be reversed in the future.

The same method technique was employed to repair gaps between loose pieces of broken bone for example within the narwhal skull which had several loose sections making it vulnerable to damage. It is now much more robust.

Any old breaks that require repair were adhered together with reversible adhesive. The repaired bones are remounted securely and in more realistic positions.

Two vertebrae halfway though the cleaning process
Two vertebrae halfway though the cleaning process
A whale tooth prior to cleaning
One of the sperm whale teeth after cleaning
A sperm whale tooth prior to cleaning
A sperm whale tooth after cleaning
An instance where the neural spine of a vertebra was missing and was modelled using Japanese Tissue paper
Japanese Tissue paper was used
A damaged narwhal skull
The skull has been repaired
The underside of the narwhal skull where there was a large gap with pieces of bone mobile either side, now filled with Japanese Tissue paper, neutral pH PVA and painted closely to the bone
You can see the new hanging brackets, and in the lower portion you can see the metalwork made to hold the ribs securely in place