Angela here- I’m a new intern here at the Frost, and I just finished up my first week working in the museum. In my early adventures profiling the pinned insect collection, I’ve come across the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. Every drawer holds within it the potential to awe, or frown disapprovingly. Overall, what we have here at the Frost is heartening, even if some aspects need a little polishing… and label standardization… and soft-bottomed unit trays. Great things are on the horizon at any rate!!
One of the more disappointing topics of cleaning out the Frost, already mentioned in early blog posts, is that of old Riker mounts lying about. While I’m not a huge proponent for Rikers as a scientific media, I’ve developed almost a grudging admiration for the aesthetics of arthropods under glass. I can see how they can be helpful with extension and beautifying a wall or desk space, but they are so… two-dimensional. While being somewhat three-dimensional. I know what I mean if you don’t.
Truth be told, some of the old mounts on the block for disposal are confusing- I’m not entirely sure why one would want to preserve an off-centered twig plastered with battered piles of scales, yet we have them. Scads of them. Some of the mounts contain nothing more than a few sad labels and the dusty remnants of “processed insects”. That is to say, insects that produced the next generations of dermestid beetles. Super depressing, but there are small rays of hope in some of these oftentimes misguided frames. As a result, I’ve begun to try my hand at restoring some of them that aren’t in too bad of shape. With the inability to throw away things I probably should (thanks Dad), and an incorrigible stubbornness (thanks Mum), I’ve amassed over 30 that I simply couldn’t say no to. Everyday I’ve brought a couple home, encouraging bizarre looks from other passengers on the bus.
The most basic damage in Riker mounts I’ve seen, aside from bleaching, is dirty glass. It’s not just smoodgey on the outside though, which requires some disassembling, cleaning and reassembling. Not a big deal on the scale of my small operations, but not exactly economical for hundreds of mounts. Some insects are out of line. Some labels are crooked or too big for my preferences. But everything on the minimal level is pretty fixable. I did find two mounts with amazing specimens, but cracked fronts. I WILL BREATH INTO THEM NEW LIFE (but carefully, some of them are full of frass and probably mildew).
A Detailed Detailing of the General Process:
- Pick an excellent cleaning soundtrack. Personally, nothing portrays the joy I feel cleaning decades of grime off of insect mounts like my favorite 70s and 80s tunes. For your benefit, there is no sarcasm in that statement. Yes Mr. Lewis and the News, I do believe in love. I also believe this Cecropia Moth will positively glow once I’m through with him. Pow.
- Remove nails holding the top of the frame in place. Lift up gingerly and be careful of any sticking insects. They can get kinda greasy over the years, which is something to be mindful of.
- Analyze glass through light, grimace for effect.
- Clean front of pane.
- Clean inside of pane.
- Pause for improvised dance during sax solo.
- Look at the now cleaned glass and nod approvingly.
- Pick small bits of dirt off cotton and scootch insect around until pleased with orientation.
- Reposition glass and smile with self-satisfaction while pushing the nails back in.
As I’m writing this, I’ve come to realize I should probably be doing this in my room, but my room mates are generally good sports about my entomological leanings. Thank goodness! They’d have to move out otherwise.
Now for some inspirational befores and afters:
After a little work:
Some cool specimens!
Perhaps my favorite of the collection:
And if you’re wondering where true love begins, my guess would be here:
Welp, I’ve still got some mounts that need a little care and attention. I may be wasting my time, but thankfully it’s mine to waste after the work day is over!
Until my next collection of musings- peace, love, and hippoboscids to all!