Yesterday, Lindsey Loughtman (Assistant curator- Botany) and I carried out an inspection of one of the shelves of the botany spirit collection. The botancial spirit collection can be found with other natural sciences spirit collections (including a spooky severed hand!) in the basement of the museum.
The process involved removing items from the shelf; giving them a good clean; assessing their condition; and then taking a photo which could be added to their record on KE-EMu. The specimens were ranked on a scale. Good meant no action was needed (only two of these I’m afraid; one of which wasn’t even a plant (see below!). Good to fair meant that a slight top-up (of spirit) was needed. Fair meant that a top-up is definitely needed. Fair to poor meant that the specimen may need rehydration but is salvageable. And finally poor meant that the specimen is not salvageable and ought to be disposed of. The specimens investigated were in all kinds of states; some examples of which can be seen below.
The work is usually carried out by Gina Allnat, last year’s biology trainee, Lindsey and Veronica (a volunteer). It is useful to keep botanical specimens in spirit to provide a ‘3-D’ structure to complement the pressed specimens. In association with botanical illustrations (see Leo Grindon collection), they can also provide more colour than the pressed sheets (if they have been looked after).
Though undoubtedly a valid activity, time spent in the spirit store needs to be limited due to the inhalation of alcohol. This is why you should only really spend an hour in the spirit store before getting some fresh air! I look forward to working more with the spirit collection in every department I gain experience in (botany, entomology, zoology); and have already begun helping Kate with the topping up of some of the zoological specimens.