Back in March 2012, I joined the Leeds Museums and Galleries team as a Biology Curatorial Trainee and was privileged enough to be given (near) free rein over the natural science collections, to improve my curatorial skills and knowledge of natural sciences while expanding my museum experience. One collection that needed some attention was the bird egg collection, so I worked on it over the course of my traineeship year.
I realise that more than a year has passed since I finished as a trainee, so you’re probably wandering what has taken her so long to blog about the egg collection project and why now? After all, I now have another bird collection – the skins – to worry about.
Well, this blog is long overdue and, given the seasonal nature of public engagement with the egg collection, what better time is there to do it than in spring, when birds will be laying their eggs? Also, as I get used to my new role, I often find myself thinking, what if the egg collection was already perfectly curated when I began my traineeship and I was given a completely different collection to work on, would I be where I am now? I like to think that my interest in the egg collection and my passion for this project helped me secure my current role.
Along with the rest of the collections, the egg collection was packed up and relocated from the old store to Leeds Museum Discovery Centre in 2007 and not much had been done to it since then. Boxes of specimens were still tied to drawers from being transported but at least there were drawers and plenty of new racking space to house the collection!
These cardboard boxes provided a very cramped and acidic environment, with such fragile specimens only being protected from overcrowding and high acidity by the poly bag packaging (see image). Should anyone have wanted to get to particular specimens to check for pests, damage or get them out for visitors to look at, it would have been a very time consuming process. All in all, this was a far from ideal way to store the collection and it was the poor conditions driving the work that followed.
By Kirsty Garrod