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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Behind the scenes at the Zoology Museum

Okapi in the freezer

So sorry for the terrible quality of the photo. But it was on a behind the scenes tour, at night, taken through the door of a freezer.

This is the reality of taxidermy conservation in the 21st Century. One big walk in freezer. Of the size I haven't seen since working in ice cream research. Or McDonalds. But the freezer kills the bugs and mites that can slowly destroy these antique skins. However, it is also necessary to protect the skins from frostbite, so they are frozen whilst wrapped in bubblewrap. It's odd. But it works.

There were many other treasures seen and experienced at the Cambridge Museum of Zoology. It is undergoing major rebuilding work so the staff and volunteers are tremendously busy coping with moving and storing their objects, and occasionally finding new things. We were told of a very dodgy looking bag, containing the stomach contents of some animal, with the tag "of no scientific interest". Sampled from a thylacine (probably before they were even endangered!). This is now classed as "of interest."

I won't mention the many other astonishing things we were shown - I don't know which they will put on display, and which, like rhino horn, will have to be hidden away or removed to high security storage due to their value. But when it reopens (sometime in 2017), I will be one of the first through the doors.

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