Taking care of our taxidermy collection

Swallowtail butterfly

Museum collections require constant care and there’s a lot of conservation work going on behind the scenes at Leeds Museums.

Right now, some of the animals usually displayed in Leeds City Museum’s Life on Earth Gallery are being conserved. We’re taking the opportunity to reveal what goes on behind the scenes, following the animals from their case to our conservation department!

Otter

Dangers and Pests

Museums take plenty of precautions to prevent pests from accessing our collections. Simple things like avoiding food and drink on the gallery can make a difference.

Good environmental conditions, well-sealed cases, regular pest monitoring, and the chemicals used to preserve taxidermy specimens all reduce the likelihood of our specimens being damaged by pests.

Unfortunately, something will very occasionally slip through all our deterrents. Recently, we discovered moth activity in some of our Life on Earth Gallery cases.

The larvae of the Webbing Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella) feed on natural fibres, including fur and feathers, and we found adult moths and the dropping of larvae had made their way into the taxidermy case.

Moths have eclectic tastes, so to be safe, we have removed a large variety of animals, including our famous Leeds Tiger. His companions range from butterflies to bats; birds such as the Black-headed Oriole, Huia (now extinct) and Yellow-capped Mannakin; as well as an otter and a Grey Seal.

Yellow-capped Mannakin

A trip to ‘quarantine’

We have arrangements in place to deal with invading pests! In order to prevent further spread of the moth, and to protect the rest of our collection, we have temporarily removed the affected and vulnerable specimens to the quarantine facility at Leeds Discovery Centre, our museum store. There we will freeze them to kill all the moths and larvae.

We hope to return all the specimens to the gallery soon, and apologise for any disappointment caused to visitors

By Rebecca Machin, Curator – Natural Sciences

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