Preparation Lab Research

© The Field Museum, MOR 1184, fossil sturgeon  photographer: Eric Hilton

Preparators occasionally present preparation methods and techniques, and conservation practices to colleagues in professional meetings and symposia. 

'A use of rigid, semi-rigid and transparent cradles for preparation and long term storage of delicate specimens' by Akiko Shinya
Preparation of delicate specimens sometimes need a temporary cradle to support the specimen while preparation is in progress.  Akiko introduced techniques with cradle making and material choices through a use of rigid cradle made with plaster for an initial cradle, semi-rigid cradle made with thermoplastic sheet and polyethylene sheet for an intermediate temporary cradle, and a semi-transparent cradle for a temporary or long term storage.

(Presented in 2010 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting, Pittsburgh, PA)

'Preparation of micro-features of Eocene Green River Specimens: methods and materials' by Constance Van Beek
The fine-grained limestone of the Green River formation has preserved fossil features in extraordinary detail:  fish scales and teeth, bird feathers, veining on leaves.  These delicate features may be damaged by mechanical and chemical preparation.  Connie demonstrated how to fine-tune manual preparation methods and materials to expose these fossil details without damage; using specially shaped pin vise tips, modifying specimen orientation and holding of tools for optimal precision and control.

(Presented in 2010 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting, Pittsburgh, PA)

 

'Effective microprepration workstation setup' by Lisa Herzog and Akiko Shinya
Micropreparation is performed under a stereo microscope and variety of tools like air scribes, grinding tools, hand tools and so on, but an effective work can only be done in a clear working surface with good organization of all chemicals and tools.  Lisa presented her setup from how she labels her chemicals to her unique system of splitting airlines in three ways. 

(Presented in 2009 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting, Bristol, UK)

 

'Pyrite oxidation: Review and prevention practices' by Akiko Shinya and Lisa Bergwall
Pyrite is a very common mineral found in sedimetary rock and is known as fool's gold because its golden shiny looks.  Some fossils are found with abundant pyrite in its sediment and/or on the specimen itself.  Pyrite oxidizes in the presence of oxygen and moisture, and byproducts of the reaction harm fossils over time.  If untreated or unprevented, fossils may be lost due to severe pyrite oxidation.  Akiko and Lisa had presented a poster to discuss how to recognize a pyrite oxidation in museum collections, various methods to halt the reaction and remove byproducts, and conservation techniques for preventing disasters.

(Presented in 2007 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting, Austin, TX)

 

'A simple process for fabricating small display mounts' by Matthew Brown, Constance Van Beek, James Holstein
Sometimes preparators find themselves assigned to a task for which they have had little training and without appropriate tools and facilities at their disposal.  While not outside the job description of preparator, there may be little or no experience in fabricating a display mount for exhibition.  Matt, Connie and Jim were given a project:  to fabricate and mount a cast of a small theropod dinosaur for the new Evolving Planet exhibit.  The skeleton of the dromaesosaur Buitreraptor gonzalesorum was incomplete and some bones were either missing or distorted.    By using the available cast bones, reconstructing new ones and fabricating a metal armature, they were able to construct a dynamic mount for display, by utilizing tools and materials found in a typical prep lab or hardware store.

(Presented in 2006 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting, Ottawa, ON, CANADA)

 

'BSV scaling:  a simple viscosity scale for adhesives and consolidants and its applications' by Akiko Shinya, Lisa Bergwall, Constance Van Beek
Common adhesive and consolidants used in labs and field settings are typically a mixture of acrylic beads and acetone or ethanol, and the viscosity of solutions are deteremined by the ratio of beads to solvent.  The Field Museum preparators introduced a usage of premeassured bottles for both beads and solvents, viscosity scale BSV one through six.    

(Presented in 2005 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting, Mesa, AZ)

 

'Three-dimensional preparation of a late Cretaceous sturgeon from Montana' by Constance Van Beek
The fossil record of sturgeons is notoriously poor for well-preserved or complete specimens, because they are cartilagineous fishes.  When a complete specimen of a new, undescribed taxon arrived at the Museum on loan from the Museum of the Rockies, it presented an opportunity to fully prepare and then disarticulate the most complete and best-preserved fossil sturgeon yet known.  Connie gave a talk about the preparation of this specimen and the special challenges it presented; from removing every grain of matrix from the fossil, stabilizing the bones from breakage, to then disarticulating each bone from the skull so they could be photographed, illustrated and described for publication.

(Presented in 2005 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting, Mesa, AZ)