Preservation Awareness at the International Wolf Center

A timber wolf at the International Wolf Center enjoys a frozen pigeon hidden in the wolf enclosure as part of the Center's wolf enrichment program.

I recently returned to the lab from a week’s vacation in the North Shore area of Minnesota on Lake Superior.  During the trip, I enjoyed a visit to the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN.  This educational, non-profit organization seeks to “advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wild lands, and the role humans play in their future.”  The Center cares for a resident “ambassador wolf pack” which can number anywhere from 2 to 5 wolves, depending on life cycles and wolf pack dynamics.  Right now, the wolf pack includes two timber wolves, Denali and Aiden, with new wolf pups likely to be introduced in the spring of 2012.  In addition to an enclosure where the wolves can be viewed, this beautiful facility offers educational programming (check out their programming schedule) and informative exhibits for children and adults.  A gift shop sells wolf-related souvenirs ranging from t-shirts and mugs to wildlife animal crackers and replica wolf fangs.

As a preservation professional, I was impressed and pleased to notice a prominently placed sign not only asking visitors to refrain from flash photography of the exhibits, but also explaining why.


Light damage to taxidermy pelts is cumulative — adds up over time.  The more light a specimen is exposed to, the more damage will occur.

Different types of light affect materials differently.  For example, the most severe damage is caused by UV (such as sunlight) range light.  However, damage can also occur from long-term exposure to incandescent light (such as a light bulb).

The flash from a camera fits into the category of damaging light. 

This exhibit was meant for permanent display.  The longer they are on display, the more serious the damage can become due to light.  This damage is irreversible.

This is why our exhibit is softly lit and we ask you to turn off your flash.

Thank you!

The International Wolf Center: Teaching the World about Wolves

Taxidermy at the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN.

Information Services Director Jess Edberg explained that the exhibited collections were developed by the Science Museum of Minnesota according to their own museum protocols.  In the absence of a curator, Jess takes on the role of maintaining the specimens, taxidermy, and other artifacts, which receive a careful cleaning and check-up twice a year.  It’s wonderful to witness the International Wolf Center educating the public not only about the preservation of wolf populations, but also about the preservation of the natural and cultural artifacts that are part of their work.  If you get the chance to visit Ely, MN, make sure to stop by the International Wolf Center to visit the ambassador wolf pack and learn more about these often-misunderstood animals.

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