Friday, July 25, 2008

Week the Fourth

This week is our fourth at the museum, and as it ends, we approach the half way point of our internship. It is often said, but never understood how time can move so quickly when one's days are spent bearing witness to so many new things!

This week has truly been the culmination of all the experience the past three weeks has taught us. We have been constantly coming across new methods of performing our tasks more efficiently. Some of these have saved us time, and some have turned out not be be as effective as we had hoped. This week, however we applied the best of our methods and have been lining drawers like crazy, printing out inventory sheets with ease, and transferring information from written source to electronic quickly. I guess it takes a while to find out exactly what will work best and to uncover computer shortcuts. Now that we have we are a working very well together as a team.

I think everyone has also reached a point of familiarity with the area as well. It is always interesting to hear one another's stories of traipsing around the city, or to join in on the adventure when possible, even if it is only a short walk, subway ride or a lunch break.

As a result of rescheduling, we had two collections tours this week! On Wednesday we went on a tour of the museum's wasps' nests. The collection contained over a thousand nests ranging in complexity. We first were shown small, simple, single-celled nests in the type of honeycomb pattern similar to what you've probably seen in your yard at some point. Along the way, Christine showed us nests attached to leaves, camouflaged with intriguing bark patterns and in strange arrangements. The most complex were multi chambered, large spherical or conical nests. I'd stay away from those if you ever see one! The wasps' nests collection contains specimens dating to the early 1900s. This collection is really remarkable because each specimen is extremely fragile. The nests are constructed by a mixture of wasp saliva and wood pulp or mud. In such an instance, maintenance of temperature and humidity conditions is crucial to the preservation of the collection. There are monitors for temperature and humidity both inside and outside of the cabinets and the cabinets have been beautifully lined with archival materials.

Yesterday, we were given a tour of one of Ruth's old stomping grounds, Mammalogy. This tour was incredible! The study of mammals encompasses a wide spectrum. It was fun and interesting to see all the department had to offer. In addition to showing us the collection, Darrin, our tour guide shared anecdotes from the field and enthusiastically catered to our many requests. Since mammalogists are interested in all facets of their specimens, the collection contains skins, skeletons, plasticates, and alcoholics... Each of these types of preservation serve a different purpose and we got to see examples of them all. Personal highlights: tiger pelts, elephant skulls, early 1900s photo archives and a mouse lemur presevered in alcohol!

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