Several specimens within the collections of the museum are often preserved, or conserved, in positions that imitate the animal in motion, using methods of taxidermy. Taxidermists today use diverse materials to give the animal form, while in the past they used straw, hence the expression “stuffed animal”.
Numerous other methods can also be used to conserve plant and animal collections. Plants and insects, for example, can be dried simply in the open air. Fluids, such as ethanol, or lyophilization (freeze-drying) with which we are currently experimenting at the museum, can also be used for preservation.
What is lyophilization ?
Lyophilization (also called freeze-drying) is a process by which water is taken out of the object, specimen or organism, making them more stable to ambient temperature. This technique is well-known in the food industry, pharmaceuticals but also for the restoration of archaeological artefacts, archives, wickerwork or water filled textile.
The physical principle that occurs is called sublimation where ice crystals go directly from the solid state to the gaseous state, without going through the liquid stage. One of the greatest advantage is that specimens keep their natural shape and in most cases, their colors. The absence of chemical products is a considerable advantage when manipulation occurs.
Here some examples of lyophilized specimens :