Delivering training in palaeontological preparation and conservation techniques for a week at Peterborough Museum

Peterborough Museum (UK) has a lot of fantastic Jurassic fossil material on display and in its collections, mostly discovered in nearby brick pits. This includes a large number of bones from a particularly huge fossil fish, Leedsichthys problematicus, found in ‘Star Pit’ nearby in 2001 and excavated in 2002 (see: At 15 to 20m long, this species is the largest fish known to have inhabited Earth's oceans. In 2015, the museum’s Collections Manager Glenys Wass secured funding for the remaining field jackets from the 2002 excavation to finally be opened and their contents prepared, ready for research.

Palaeontological conservator and fossil preparator Nigel Larkin was asked to help with the initial stages of the project. First he assessed the tools, equipment and materials already in the preparation lab and made suggestions as to how the set-up could be improved, and then made sure all the equipment was working properly and safely. Then he selected one of the field jackets and prepared the contents to provide a methodology for workers to follow, and wrote out instructions and warned of health and safety issues. Finally, after ordering the relevant materials, he spent a week training an eager team of experienced volunteers and staff in the techniques for removing the underburden from jackets, consolidating the material and making secure bases and permanent storage media for the specimens as well as how to prepare the top surfaces with small pneumatic air chisels and the airbrasive unit. The project is financed by the Museum Association's Esmee Fairburn Collections fund.

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