The wide variety of specimens in the Natural History collection
requires an equally wide range of display and preservation techniques.
Taxidermy is used for animals and birds. This involves
preserving the skins and displaying them in a life-like pose.
Taxidermy is a highly skilled traditional technique which combines
detailed knowledge of the appearance and behaviour of the animals
in their natural environment with artistic and technical skills.
Dry preservation is used is for plants, small animals
and invertebrates. Freeze-drying is a modern development,
where the internal and external structure of the specimen is preserved.
It works by reducing the temperature and pressure of the specimen
until all the water vapour is removed, leaving the cellular structure
Wet preservation is used for soft-bodied animals such
as molluscs, and insects. This technique involves storing the
specimen in a preservative solution. In the 19th century, Jamaican
rum and Geneva gin were used as preservative solutions. Nowadays,
industrial methylated spirits are used.
Fossils and other geological specimens also require treatment.
Any unwanted material surrounding the specimen must be carefully
chipped away. This is followed by chemical treatment.
Modelling is an important display technique. Casts in
resins, foam and rubber are made from original specimens. Examples
of this technique are frogs, fish, slugs and sea anemones. Modelling
techniques are used extensively for display case backgrounds.