The AIM project was set up to beat the moths and other insects that have gradually set up home in the stored skin collection here at the Powell-Cotton Museum. The insects thrive on the animal skins, eating and living in the fur/hair of the already delicate specimens, making some of them unrecognisable as the animals listed on their museum catalogue label. The moth’s favourite skin appears to be the giraffe!
The project is carried out by a group of people who volunteer one day a week to spend time with rare animal skins. Some of us who volunteer are interested in the animals themselves and joining this project has given us the opportunity to learn about species that we may never see alive and to see species that we have never heard of before. The others are interested in the museum side of the work and are using it as a chance to gain experience in this environment.
The day of an AIM Volunteer
Gloves are an important part of this project. Over the years the skins have been treated with many chemicals, firstly to preserve them and secondly, to try and tackle the insect problem. The chemicals are all very old and are likely to have worn away but we do not take any chances, so gloves on!
Next, we choose the drawer we are sorting that day. All the drawers are numbered and labelled with what is inside.
We empty the drawer and clean out the inside. Many of the drawers are lined with old newspaper, which we all find very interesting and distracting!
Once the skins are out of the drawers, bags are custom made for them. Each bag usually contains three specimens, depending on the size. Larger animals, such as elephants, rhinos and yaks are more difficult to pack, and so they have bags made for each individual specimen. The date it was packed, the species, the number of skins and the skin’s unique catalogue numbers are written on each bag.