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Predator cleaning time at Kendal Museum, April 2017

It was predator cleaning time at Kendal Museum, as some of the taxidermy from the stores was prepared for display.

Hog & Fitch loved getting close to those terrifying teeth and talons. It’s not every day that we act as dental hygienists for a crocodile! Long handled brushes and the narrowest nozzle of the museum vac helped us keep our distance – and of course the poor old crocodile was no longer really in a position to bite us.

After some careful manoeuvring to remove the dust from deep inside the crocodile’s mouth without damaging its teeth, we spent time on the skin, where dust had settled into the natural dips and grooves. It was deeply satisfying to get the dust out from the crevices before buffing the surface to a shine with a very soft brush. The skin was very brittle in parts so it needed extreme care and a light touch.

Having survived our close encounter with the croc, we cleaned a cape hunting dog that would no doubt have been far less amenable had we tried to clean out its large ears in the wild. With both these safely installed in the Africa display, we moved on to a magnificent white tailed eagle destined for the museum’s new Predator showcase.

For the eagle, it was not just a case of dust removal, but also of making sure the feathers were lying correctly. Getting them to lie flat and sleek, covering the underlying down, was a labour of love requiring intense concentration. It also gave us an opportunity to appreciate this magnificent specimen at close quarters and ponder on how much our attitude towards taxidermy has changed since this majestic bird was stuffed and mounted in the early 20th century.

The work also gave us an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of the craftsmanship involved in the settings for the taxidermy cases, especially when the Curator, Carol, pointed out some of their more fascinating aspects. We'll be back at Kendal Museum soon for a more leisurely look.

images and acknowledgements

Condition checking before starting work; crocodile showing heavy dust deposits; six images showing conservation cleaning in progress, with gradual improvement in surface visible; detail of crocodile skin post conservation cleaning; gentle dust removal to return sheen to the nose of a cape hunting dog, also for display in the Africa showcase in Kendal Museum; viewing the new Africa showcase, with dog and crocodile in place; beginning the process of arranging the feathers on the white tailed eagle (note one clearly not yet put back in place to right of image); detail of tail feathers post cleaning; two images showing detail of feathers during cleaning and arrangement; white tailed eagle installed in predator showcase at Kendal Museum post conservation cleaning