ICPC SOS 2014


The Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium holds a member meeting and Save Our Stuff (SOS) workshop annually.  This year the University of Iowa Libraries played host because they are celebrating 30 years of collections care.  In her June 10 blog post, Mindy highlighted the wide array of workshops she attended throughout the day including taxidermy.  Here is a little more detail on the Taxidermy Care and Cleaning workshop taught by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager at University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History.

photo 6

I have to admit that this is the workshop that intrigued me the most since I know nothing about caring for taxidermy specimens.  Turns out that the biggest takeaway I got from this workshop is that basic care and cleaning of these objects is not unlike textile care and cleaning.  Agents of deterioration and pest management are the same as what we have come to expect for all organic and protein-based materials.  Cindy did remind us that one concern is the presence of arsenic and pesticides and that we should wear personal protective equipment like gloves and masks.

photo 5

Supplies for making cotton swabs: skewers and cotton balls.

To start, Cindy had us roll our own cotton swabs to do gentle “enzymatic” (saliva) cleaning of the eyes, beaks, and claws, just gently rolling, not rubbing, the cotton swab over the hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

Gentle swabbing of hard surfaces.

We next moved onto vacuuming the fur and feathers on the bodies using a Nilfisk canister vacuum with adjustable speeds and micro tool attachments.  For fine dust and more fragile specimens, Cindy recommended vacuuming through a nylon screen.  Again, not unlike cleaning textiles.  A Nilfisk backpack vacuum was also available for us to test out, but the drawbacks of the backpack were significant; it did not have adjustable speeds and it was extremely loud.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Nilfisk backpack vacuum.

Cindy also showed us a more gentle, inexpensive vacuum that we could make ourselves using an aquarium pump, Erlenmeyer flask, rubber stopper, tubing and connectors.

Aquarium-pump microvacuum.

Aquarium-pump micro-vacuum.

To me, the best part about this workshop was just having the chance to hear about something other than book and paper even though the care and cleaning was not as foreign as I thought it would be.  We already have the basic knowledge and skills from the care of other cultural artifacts, but of course, I would still call a conservator if I needed to do anything more difficult.

The above letters (SOS ICPC) may not mean much to most people, but for those in the Iowa library world of preservation and conservation, they mean an opportunity to listen, learn, tour, and mingle with other library colleagues.  The 2014 SOS ICPC (the annual “Save Our Stuff” conference of the Iowa Conservation & Preservation Consortium) was held at the University of Iowa’s Main Library on June 6th.

A couple of the topics and workshops piqued my interest, so I decided to attend this year along with my ISU Library colleagues, Hilary Seo, Head of Preservation, and Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

The Keynote Speaker was John Doershuk, State Archaeologist and Director, Office of the State Archaeologist, who discussed recent archaeological finds on the University of Iowa campus.  The University of Iowa is still making adjustments to their campus after major flooding in June 2008 and recently unearthed beads, glassware, and other artifacts of interest. They are planning upcoming future digs as well.

ICPC-SOS-2014-Composite01

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason (far right image, center) and Janet Weaver (far right image, left).

Afterwards I went to the Iowa Women’s Archives for Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason, Curator, and Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator.  They had several interesting items to look at for housing ideas, but I was really interested in the boxing of those special items crafted by the University of Iowa’s Conservation Lab and the interesting ways their boxes accommodated them.  Kären sounded very happy to have a great team working in the Conservation Lab to come up with and construct some creative boxing ideas.

ICPC-SOS-2014-Taxidermy

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning with Cindy Opitz.

Next I headed to the Special Collections Classroom for Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager, UI Museum of Natural History.  Cindy explained how to be cost efficient and make your own Q-tips as you can go through so many of them when cleaning exhibits.  She demonstrated the proper cleaning and low speed vacuuming techniques using brushes and screens.  It was amazing how much dirt came off of our bird specimens with our Q-tips.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Lastly I attended Making Custom Exhibition Supports by Bill Voss, Conservation Technician, and Brenna Campbell, Assistant Conservator, UI Libraries.  Bill demonstrated making custom mounts using his bare hands using Vivak (an alternative to thin Plexiglas), and Brenna showed us the uses of polyethylene strapping and J-Lar tape in securely holding book pages open for exhibit.

ICPC-SOS-2014-ExhibitPrep

Making Custom Exhibition Supports with Bill Voss and Brenna Campbell.

I came away with many new ideas on boxing techniques, custom exhibit supports, and cleaning taxidermy if the need be.