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The study and conservation of the 20th century wooden chest and its Lepidoptera collection

Repairing methods of Lepidoptera collections
Júlia Tauber

Abstracts

A carved wooden chest was recently given to the University of Lincoln for conservation treatment. The chest holds four drawers with a Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths) collection badly damaged by pests. After consultation, it has been decided that the Lepidoptera specimens will be restored, without modification or serious intervention. This was achieved after investigations were carried out on historic repairs on Lepidoptera collections, and consultation with entomologists as well. The research involved the examination of repairs carried out in the 18th century on butterflies at the Hunterian Museum’s collection. One drawer holding moths was treated and restored. Conservation treatment was also applied on the wooden chest.

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I would like to thank Ashleigh Whiffin Assistant Curator of Entomology and Keith Bland retired curator and volunteer at the National Museums Scotland for showing me around and providing me a basic understanding on collecting and pinning down Lepidoptera specimens. I also would like to thank Jeanne Robinson Curator of Entomology at the Hunterian Museum for showing me the historically repaired specimens of their collection. I would like to thank my colleague Alex Walton for his continuous support, advice, and help.

Introduction

1The object is a wooden chest with beautiful carved details which holds four drawers housing a British Lepidoptera collection. On the side, several paper boxes hold dried insects. The object was recently donated to the Louth Museum, which then donated it to the University of Lincoln for conservation treatment.

2The chest had experienced serious insect infestation which damaged most of the Lepidoptera collection. The paper surfaces on the two side doors were also badly damaged by pests. The chest itself is in good condition with some surface dirt and some paint spillage on the top surfaces. It also has two large cracks on the back panel.

3A literature review was carried out on the historic repairs on Lepidoptera collections. Entomologists were visited in order to understand conservation processes of pinned down, dried specimens.

4After consultation with the museum curator the decision was made that restoration and repairs could be carried out on the actual specimens.

5Invertebrates have been collected since the seventeenth century and it is proven that if they are kept properly, away from light and free of pest attack, they can survive for at least 300 years (Walker et al.1999).

6The conservation processes were all carried out in a method designed to use minimal intervention techniques, with a focus on retreatability.

History

7The wooden chest originally belonged to Joseph Larder, former Secretary of the Louth Museum and by default the Louth Naturalists’, Antiquarian and Literary Society. The Louth Antiquarian and Literary Society was formed in 1884 and opened the Louth Museum with a single gallery in 1910 (Louth Museum, 2017). The Society meets on 20 occasions per annum, and delivers lectures about natural history, geography, literature and other topics. The Museum has been extended with two further galleries, a library, and a museum shop between 2003 and 2006 (Louth Museum, 2017).

8Collecting was very popular and important in the 19th century (Tauber, 2016). It must have been especially important to the secretary of the Naturalist Antiquarian Society.

9Collectors have the aim to communicate the gathered information amongst others; therefore, labelling and giving appropriate detailed data is extremely important. Even the best-preserved specimens have little or no scientific value without data (P. J. Gullan and P.S. Cranston, 2005, p. 428). Each specimen should be examined and identified, and as new understandings and new classifications in natural sciences appear, information on the species should be updated accordingly (A.K. Walker et al. 1999). About 80 percent of the specimen types of the Louth Museum cabinet are marked with labels only specifying the nature of the specimen in English, whereas dates and areas where the species originate from are not noted down.

10When properly recorded, labels ideally show the location, country, town, co-ordinates, altitude, date, and collector. A second label could show additional information such as collecting method, host plant, or habitat. A third label should be the identification label, which should give the name of the specimen as well as the name of the identifier and the date of identification (A.K. Walker et al. 1999).

11Collectors should ensure that their collections are deposited in recognised museums, also that they collect only what is needed, and avoid habitat minimization or destruction (P. J. Gullan and P.S. Cranston, 2005, p. 428).

12According to Pollard and Yates (1993) there are 22,000 insect species in Britain, of which about 2,500 are Lepidoptera and only 58 of these are resident or common. No species are restricted to this country, all of them can be found elsewhere in Europe, too. However, the study of natural history was so popular in the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain that British butterflies have been studied the most thoroughly in the world (E. Pollard and T.J. Yates, 1993, p. xi).

Fig.1 Cabinet before conservation treatment

Fig.1 Cabinet before conservation treatment

Prior to conservation

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

13The proper left side of the Louth Museum cabinet contains some paper boxes which are labelled with date, location, and Latin scientific names of insects; however only about half of the paper boxes hold actual dried insects. Most of the insects were collected in 1900 around Mablethorpe, Linconshire.

14The stainless steel pins used suggest that the Lepidoptera was collected slightly later than the rest of the insects.

A brief overview of collecting Lepidoptera

15The wings of insects are fragile and thin. Mostly, they are composed of chitinous epidermal layers supported by veins (G. Brown and E. G. Hancock, 2007). The surface of Lepidoptera wings has overlapping scales covering them which resemble microscopic roof shingles. These scales produce the pattern and colouration on the wings. This appears powder-like, is extremely fragile, and can easily be damaged by the human touch (G. Brown and E. G. Hancock, 2007).

16After having collected specimens, one has to kill them either by freezing, freeze drying, or in a killing bottle where vapours of ethyl acetate are extracted. According to Janse (1939), in early collecting, potassium cyanide was also used in killing bottles to kill specimens. The specimen would die overnight and was fresh enough to be pinned (Janse, 1939). Most specimens should be mounted while fresh or relaxed, and large moths should be eviscerated first (P. J. Gullan and P.S. Cranston, 2005, p. 432).

17Different insects should be pinned differently and different-sized pins should be used. Lepidoptera should be pinned through the mesothorax with the thinnest pins possible (Janse, 1939).

Fig. 2 Pinned down Lepidoptera from the National Museums Scotland’s Collection

Fig. 2 Pinned down Lepidoptera from the National Museums Scotland’s Collection

Pinned down, labelled Lepidoptera

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

18Specimens could be relaxed, or according to Janse (1939), they can be placed in a triangular envelope. More specimens in envelopes can be placed on top of each other most ideally in a tin box which is padded. Then a light weight such as a small piece of wood can be placed on top of them to keep the wings flat. Butterflies will then dry out in the desired position (Janse, 1939).

19Specimens should always be handled with watchmaker’s forceps and should not be touched by hand (Blant, 2017).

20Collections should be kept in a dark place as light causes fading. Alterations of temperature should be avoided (P. J. Gullan and P.S. Cranston, 2005, p. 440). Signs of pests should be monitored.

21Specimens should be positioned about three quarters of the way up the pin. In this case, many of the specimens have moved on the pin and are now very close to the bottom board. Stainless steel pins were used to pin butterflies. In some cases, the ferrous metal pins were painted with a black tinted lacquer.

22The proper left side of the cabinet holds two wooden drawers from which one has two round wooden boxes and 14 paper boxes. 9 hold dried insects such as meadow grasshoppers, nettle bugs, or two-dot ladybirds. None of the insects were pinned down and most possibly, they were dried in a triangular envelope.

Historic repairs on Lepidoptera collections

23Before a conservation treatment was carried out, existing historic repairs were looked at. The entomology lab of the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh and the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow were visited in order to examine historic repairs, but also to exchange thoughts with entomologists on repairing specimens. At the National Museums Scotland Keith Bland was interviewed while at the Huntarian Museum Joanne Robinson was visited.

24In Edinburgh, entomologists only carry out basic repairs such as broken off wings, or in the case of two specimens of the same species being badly damaged, one might be sacrificed to repair the other one (Blant, 2017). This can be done by using one wing to patch up wings of the other specimen. The wing parts can be adhered on using animal glue or gum tragacanth. Seccotine refined fish glue adhesive is commonly used for adhering broken wings back.

25If a specimen has damaged wings or other body parts, they do not touch them. The collections at the National Museums Scotland are kept for scientific purposes and therefore, specimens should not be modified (Blant, 2017). It is likely that wrong body parts such as legs and antennas are re-attached, especially if a conservator who is not familiar with the specimens carries out work on them.

26The Hunterian Museum curates a large Lepidoptera collection of which a few specimens hold historic repairs (G. Brown and E. G. Hancock, 2007). These repairs were most likely carried out in the 18th century. Many of the repaired specimens at the Hunterian Museum have patched wings. These patches are adhered on, from the back side of the wings, and are made of wings of different species. Some of the repaired butterflies have wing parts of three to four different specimens attached to them. The attached wings vary in size and colour as well, they however provide a good coverage. From the top view these repairs are hardly visible, therefore it is really interesting and surprising to see what they look like from the back.(Figure 3 and Fig 4) Most commonly, wings of common British Lepidoptera were used to repair other, more important, unique species.

Fig. 3 Repaired butterfly from underside

Fig. 3 Repaired butterfly from underside

Under view of butterfly repaired with wings of various butterflies

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

Fig. 4 Repaired butterfly from top view

Fig. 4 Repaired butterfly from top view

Top view of butterfly repaired with wings of various butterflies

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

27This method was commonly used and appears on different pieces of the Hunterian Museum’s collection. On some examples, the wing patches are made of cut-out patches of butterfly wings; on other examples, whole wings are adhered to the back which match in colour.

28Wings are also repaired with Japanese tissue paper, which again is adhered to the specimen from the underside of the wing. This is a common method in repairing butterflies nowadays as well. Japanese 9gcm Gampi tissue paper can be used with neutral PVA (polyvinyl acetate) or methyl cellulose (Smith, 2010).

29Japanese tissue paper is very good quality, fine, durable, and strong. There are three different types which have been made using the fibres of the barks of three different plants: Kozo, Mitsumata and Gampi (Moore, 2006).

30As the tissue’s structure does not break down when in contact with a wet adhesive, it is ideal for repairs. According to Moore (2006) “The tissue acts as a stable bridge between the protein/amino acid or cellulose-based structures of animal or plant tissues and the associated adhesive has to penetrate deeply into the tissue and have a neutral pH” (Moore 2006).

31Another repairing method used at the Hunterian Museum’s collection was using a very thin, clear muscovite mica sheet. The sheet was adhered to the wings from the underside. This is a strong, good repair and it is almost invisible even when looking at it from the adhered side. It is only visible under light reflection from a certain angle. Mica is a silicate mineral which naturally appears in sheets and flakes. Mica is light, flexible, soft, and heat resistant and can be bonded with water soluble adhesives (G. Brown and E. G. Hancock, 2007). Mica is widely used in the paint industry, plastic industry, rubber industry, and as electrical insulator (Coalition, 2017). It has been noted that in early entomological collections, specimens were placed between mica sheets which were sealed with paper tape. However, mica sheets were not recorded being used as a repairing method before (G. Brown and E. G. Hancock, 2007).

32To keep loose, broken off parts with the specimens in general, gelatine capsules are used, or alternatively, thin strips of Melinex® archival polyester sheet can be used to hold parts of the wing down, or even sometimes the whole damaged specimen.

33On many occasions the pinned down specimens can move and slide down on the pins. Currently a common method is to use a small sphere of neutral PVA to hold the specimen in the desired place. At the National Museums Scotland, Seccotin fish glue is also used for this purpose (Blant, 2017). However, variations of different methods were also used at the Hunterian Museum. On a few occasions, pieces of cork were glued onto both the underside of the abdomen and the pin as well. There was another, more interventive example, where a pin was pierced through the abdomen horizontally from the bottom side to prevent sliding. (Fig 5) (Robinson, 2017)

Fig. 5 A piece of cork glued onto metal pin and underneath the abdomen

Fig. 5 A piece of cork glued onto metal pin and underneath the abdomen

Butterfly is held in place by a piece of cork

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

34There were several interventive repairs carried out on the Hunterian collection, where on one occasion, the abdomen of a specimen was replaced with a cork or wooden carved piece. Another example is the antennas of a specimen replaced with parts of carefully cut and shaped feathers. These kind of repairing methods would be too interventive when compared to today’s current practice, as the appearance of the specimen for scientific purposes and researchers would not be altered.

Condition and treatment

35The cabinet was in a fair condition, with some soiling to the top surfaces. Also, there were a few white paint drops on the top surface. The back of the cabinet had two large splits going horizontally across the back board. The proper right bottom door of the middle section started to warp due to low relative humidity (RH) in the conservation lab. The issue has been addressed and a monitoring and vaporising machine will be fitted.

36Wood is anisotropic, which means that the physical properties vary upon measurements from different directions (Rivers, S. and Umney, N., 2003). Dimensional change only occurs when bound water levels decrease, no changes happen when free water evaporates. Shrinkage only begins once wood has reached the fibre saturation point and it begins to lose bound water. Shrinkage also varies based on the species and the growth ring orientation of the wood. Changes are greater to the wood’s dimensions at right-angles rather than to those parallel to the grain growth (Rivers, S. and Umney, N., 2003). Upon the loss of bound water, the strength of wood is also changing. The strength of wood triples when it is oven dried, therefore, the strength of wood decreases when temperature is lowered, while it increases when temperature is raised. The effects of the wood’s strength changes with temperature changes are greater in moist air (Rivers, S. and Umney, N., 2003).

37Keeping temperature levels under control is also essential because insect and fungus growth can occur at certain temperature levels.

38The cabinet is carved, and apart from the two side doors all surfaces have a back board attached to them. The two side doors have paper lining underneath the carved pattern which has suffered damage caused by insects and also because of handling. The doors used to have handles which went missing throughout the years and in order to open these doors, fingers must have been pressed through the carved pattern which caused the breaking of the paper lining but also the breaking of the wooden pattern.(Fig 6.)

39Fig. 6 The side door of cabinet

Losses of both wood and paper on side door of cabinet

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

40The chest holds four drawers holding a British Lepidoptera collection. In the proper left side of the chest, there are two drawers of which one holds two wooden boxes and fourteen paper boxes. There are also most possibly plaster-casted forms in the other drawer and some paper labels. Some of the boxes hold dried insects which are the following: 3 x Stenobothrus Parallelus , 2 x Lasius Flavius, 5 x Trechus Minutus, 1 x Coccinella II Punet, 1 x Sphaeridium Scarabaeodides, 1 x Caypticus Quisquilius, 1 x Choleva Tristis, 1 x Liocoris Tripustulatus, and 1 x Pocadius Ferrugineus. These insects are in a good condition and have not suffered any pest attacks. However, all boxes were just loosely placed in the drawer. Any movement can cause the dried insects to move around and hit the walls of the boxes, or each other, which could be damaging. Plastazote® foam panel was placed in the drawer in which holes were cut to hold the boxes in place and thereby prevent any movement. Strips of Reemay® spunbonded polyester tissue were placed under each box. The strips provide a handle; therefore, the boxes can be lifted up easily. (Fig 7)

Fig. 7 Paper boxes in the newly lined up drawer

Fig. 7 Paper boxes in the newly lined up drawer

Re-organised drawer with paper boxes

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

41The side doors with the damaged paper lining were also conserved. They were first removed from the chest. Then the paper was restored by using 12-gram OK tissue paper which was previously dyed to a matching black colour. The tissue paper was doubled up to increase both strength and thickness. This was carried out whilst applying wheat starch paste in between the folded surfaces of paper. Blotting paper and a sheet of Melinex® was then placed on the freshly adhered, wet tissue paper and paper weights were placed on top to keep the tissue paper flat and to prevent any curling-up and disfiguration of the paper. Once the tissue paper dried, all the missing parts on the original, lining paper were first traced on Melinex® archival polyester. Then the exact shapes were cut out of the tissue paper by tearing. It is important to tear paper rather than use scissors as the fibres will have better adhering properties, and it will also show less upon drying. Cut edges remain noticeable (Moore, 2006).

42The application of the patches however failed, as the original paper was too fragile and brittle and kept breaking during the application process. Therefore, square patches were cut out to put on broken areas. Then, an extra layer of dyed OK tissue paper was also adhered on the doors to provide extra protection. This gave a full coverage of the door from the inner side. Wheat starch paste was only applied on the edges of the door; therefore, it will be easily reversible. Finally, black acrylic paint was applied from the front side on areas where torn paper was showing. The same process was carried out on both doors.

43Handles were cast from Araldite® 20/20 epoxy resin. A two-part silicon mould was taken from one of the existing, most probably ivory handle. Both casted handles were then colour-matched using a mixture of Golden® Acrylic paint.

44The cracks on the back of the cabinet were filled with soft balsa wood and PVA, which were then colour-matched with Golden® Acrylic paint.

45The top of the cabinet was cleaned mostly using saliva, 5% Tri-ammonium chloride, and deionised water, which were applied with cotton wool swabs.

46A solubility test was made on the paint. A gel was created using laponite and methanol. This was then placed on the paint droplets to soften the paint. After about an hour the paint droplets could easily be removed with a metal spatula. These areas were then colour matched using Golden® acrylics. Finally, a layer of Renaissance® microcrystalline wax was applied on the top board of the wooden cabinet.

Fig. 8 Cabinet after treatment

Fig. 8 Cabinet after treatment

Treated, conserved wooden cabinet

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

Pests

47The drawers with the Lepidoptera, have a cork lining at the bottom and are covered with white paper. In each drawer, there is a metal box with holes on, and the box has an imprint writing saying “camphor”. These boxes are now empty as the original content has evaporated. Following conversations with entomologists, a decision was made that no camphor or other poisonous substance will be placed in the drawers as this is not a custom to follow anymore.

48Each drawer is covered with a glass panel, which has green fabric underneath that acts like a sealant, but also as a cushion for the glass.

49In each drawer, there are signs of pest attack. Many of the Lepidoptera specimens have been badly damaged. There is heavy soiling around the specimens, and even dead bodies and shredded skins of the insects can be seen by the naked eye.

50When the conservation treatment started, all drawers were first bagged up in plastic foil and were then placed in the deep freezer at -38 ºC for five days. This would kill all remaining pests. Consultation with the above-mentioned museums made the freezing process assuring, this is how both museums keep away pests and if constant monitoring is carried out this method can be successful on the long run.

51Following the freezing, constant monitoring should be carried out in order to keep pests away. In the case of an infested collection, the droppings of pests will show around the pinned specimens.

52One drawer was opened up and the remains of the pests were collected and identified.

53There were skins of Attagenus (fur beetle larvae) remaining in the draw as well as Anthrenus – woolly bear (Carpet beetle) larvae skins and dead bodies of hatched carpet beetle.

54According to Pinniger (2001), the most common Anthrenus species in the UK are Anthrenus verbasci - carpet beetle and Anthrenus sarnicus - Guernsey carpet beetle. Carpet beetle can grow up to 2-3 mm long and are covered with grey and gold scales. They mate outside but lay eggs inside (Pinniger, 2001). Guernsey beetles can have extremely small larvae (1 mm), therefore, they can easily get through cracks. The larvae grow up within a year in an ideal environment (Pinniger, 2001).

55The most common Attagenus type in the UK are the Attagenus pellio, two-spot carpet beetle and the Attagenus smirnovi, brown carpet beetle (Pinniger, 2001). According to Pinniger (2001), the larvae of the fur beetles are extremely small, therefore, they can get through really small cracks. The larvae can grow up to 10 mm in about a year’s time which can be shortened if the environment is warm. All of the above-mentioned pests commonly eat insects, small mammals, bird skins, and wool textiles in the museum environment (Pinniger, 2001).

Verdigris on both pins and specimens

56On two of the moth specimens, verdigris was found. Verdigris can form on non-stainless pins such as copper alloy pins or nickel plated brass pins. According to Garner, Giusti and Kerley (2011), chemical reactions can occur between the metal pin and the organic compounds of the insect’s body, or they can also occur between the cork board and the metal pin. Pre-1920 pins are made of carbon steel, therefore, they do corrode. Minerals can form on the metal pins where in contact with the cork board. Species which are plant stem-borers, and those which do not feed as adults, are especially exposed to verdigris. This can be fatal, as the specimen can fall apart (Garner et al., 2011). The degree of damage depends on the environmental conditions the specimens are kept in.

57Verdigris should be brushed off surfaces, then the specimen should be re-pinned. According to Garner, Giusti and Kerley (2011), the re-pinning can be done by passing electric current through the pin. The Natural History Museum has developed a re-pinning machine which could pass electric current through the pins. This however cannot be purchased; therefore, this method was not tried out on the affected specimens. Also, if the current is too high when passed through the pin, the specimen can explode (Garner et al., 2011). In this case, the verdigris was only brushed off the specimens and the specimens were left on their original pins.

Repairs on Lepidoptera

58Plastazote® foam was placed on the bottom of the drawer, and all specimens were re-pinned on the foam. (Fig 9.) The cork panel underneath was brushed and hoovered. The drawer was deep enough to place the Plastazote® foam on top of the original cork panel.

Fig. 9 The re-pinning of moths on a Plastazote® board

Fig. 9 The re-pinning of moths on a Plastazote® board

Conservator re-pinning Lepidoptera collection.

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

59The foam was used for two reasons. Firstly, some of the pins started to form minerals and therefore started to corrode. This was due to the contact with the cork board. Secondly, when the specimens are moved, the cork being a harder material, a bigger force must be applied when taking a specimen out of its position. This can be damaging to the considerably fragile specimens. Also, by providing a new, clean surface, pest management can be carried out easily in the future. Two strips of Melinex® were placed underneath the foam, which formed a handle at both sides. This made it possible for the foam to be lifted out easily without the application of any force. Conservators and entomologists commonly use Plastazote® foams to pin specimens on.

60In the drawer, there were 73 moths in total. The bigger specimens such as Garden Tigers (Arctia caja) and Puss Moths (Cerura vinula) were more damaged by insects than others. In one case, a Puss Moth fell apart because most of its abdomen was eaten away. Such a damage was repaired by using strips of OK Tissue paper, soaked in PVA diluted in deionised water. The strips were pushed inside the hollow abdomen to create a filling.

61With all repairs, PVA diluted in deionised water was used to adhere wings and in some cases, feet back. The adhesive was applied with blotting paper. Watchmaker’s forceps, Plastazote® foams, blotting papers, and mainly gravity were used to level up wings to the right position. Many parts were too fragile to adhere back on specimens. For example, antennas were placed in gelatine capsules and were pinned next to the species they have belonged to. In a few cases, it is possible that certain body parts are not with the right insects as they were found at random locations in the drawers.

Fig. 10 Emperor Moth after Japanese tissue repair has been applied

Fig. 10 Emperor Moth after Japanese tissue repair has been applied

Repaired Emperor Moth

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

62On one specimen, the Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavona), a tissue paper repair was carried out. OK tissue paper was adhered to the back of the wing to fill a gap (Fig 10). This also had to hold a fragment which was broken off the wing, in place.

Fig. 11 Tray with pinned down moth collection before conservation treatment

Drawer of chest before conservation

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

Fig. 12 Tray with pinned down moths after conservation treatment

Fig. 12 Tray with pinned down moths after conservation treatment

Drawer of chest after conservation

Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer

Display and storage recommendations

63If the object is exhibited in a showcase, light levels should be controlled as it is organic and light-sensitive. It should not have more than 150 Lux exposed to it (McCormick, 1990). If the object is planned to be exhibited with its drawers on display, it should not have any artificial light exposed to it as the colours of the insects can fade.

64Entomological collections are ideally kept in closed drawers away from light.

65UV light should also be avoided which can be arranged by placing UV filters on windows of the exhibition room. UV light is the most damaging for organic objects, followed by white light which gets absorbed but also reflects back from surfaces.

66Pest infestations need close monitoring to ensure the long-term survival of the Lepidoptera. This problem has already occurred and many specimens are already badly damaged.

67Insects (pests) are not able to control their own body temperature. They breed more rapidly at higher temperatures (above 25 ˚C) and slow down (15 ˚C -20 ˚C) or even stop breeding at reduced temperatures (below 10 ˚C) (Pinniger, 2001).

68The ideal temperature would be between 16-20 ºC and the Relative Humidity should be between 45-55 RH (Garner et al., 2011).

69It is of key importance to keep the object at a stable RH and temperature. Fluctuating RH is especially bad for wooden objects. Wood is hydroscopic; therefore, it has the capability to exchange water (Rivers, S. and Umney, N., 2003). Even when it had dried out hundreds of years ago, it is capable of taking water from its environment. It loses bound water when RH decreases and it gains bound water when RH increases (Rivers, S. and Umney, N., 2003).

70Fungi growth depends on three factors: temperature must be between 21 and 29.5 ˚C, there has to be enough oxygen (20 percent or more air volume in wood), and the moisture in wood has to be high enough (fibre saturation point or above) (Rivers, S. and Umney, N., 2003). For this reason, keeping humidity levels down is vital. Different types of fungi utilize wood differently. They can cause staining but also affect the strength of wood (Rivers, S. and Umney, N., 2003).

Conclusion

71The conservation of a carved wooden chest and its Lepidoptera collection was carried out at the University of Lincoln. The object had suffered a serious pest attack in the past, therefore some of the Lepidoptera species were badly damaged. A large amount of research was conducted on repairing Lepidoptera, using case studies from the Hunterian Museum, where repairs were carried out on butterflies in the 18th century. Entomologists from the National Museums Scotland were also consulted in order to carry out the most appropriate treatment on the actual Lepidoptera.

72The repairs were intended to be minimally interventive, and not to alter the collection which may jeopardise the success of their use for scientific purposes. The appearance of the object was improved with the conservation techniques discussed above. With the right environmental conditions and good housekeeping, the Lepidoptera collection should now be of scientific and displayable quality for many years to come.

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Bibliography

BLANT, K., Retired Curator of Entomology 2017 [Interview] (13 02 2017).

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List of illustrations

Title Fig.1 Cabinet before conservation treatment
Caption Prior to conservation
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 72k
Title Fig. 2 Pinned down Lepidoptera from the National Museums Scotland’s Collection
Caption Pinned down, labelled Lepidoptera
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 68k
Title Fig. 3 Repaired butterfly from underside
Caption Under view of butterfly repaired with wings of various butterflies
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 92k
Title Fig. 4 Repaired butterfly from top view
Caption Top view of butterfly repaired with wings of various butterflies
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 80k
Title Fig. 5 A piece of cork glued onto metal pin and underneath the abdomen
Caption Butterfly is held in place by a piece of cork
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 88k
Caption Losses of both wood and paper on side door of cabinet
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 124k
Title Fig. 7 Paper boxes in the newly lined up drawer
Caption Re-organised drawer with paper boxes
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 68k
Title Fig. 8 Cabinet after treatment
Caption Treated, conserved wooden cabinet
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 84k
Title Fig. 9 The re-pinning of moths on a Plastazote® board
Caption Conservator re-pinning Lepidoptera collection.
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-9.jpg
File image/jpeg, 60k
Title Fig. 10 Emperor Moth after Japanese tissue repair has been applied
Caption Repaired Emperor Moth
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-10.jpg
File image/jpeg, 76k
Caption Drawer of chest before conservation
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-11.jpg
File image/jpeg, 108k
Title Fig. 12 Tray with pinned down moths after conservation treatment
Caption Drawer of chest after conservation
Credits Photo: Júlia Tauber, reproduced with the permission of the photographer
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/docannexe/image/5264/img-12.jpg
File image/jpeg, 95k
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References

Electronic reference

Júlia Tauber, « The study and conservation of the 20th century wooden chest and its Lepidoptera collection », CeROArt [Online], EGG 6 | 2017, Online since 28 May 2018, connection on 18 October 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/5264

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About the author

Júlia Tauber

Júlia Tauber (tau.julis@gmail.com) is a Masters student in Historic Object Conservation at the University of Lincoln. Due to her background as a jeweller, Júlia specialises in historic metalwork conservation. She is currently employed as the assistant conservator with the Engineering Department at the National Museums Scotland. She nurtures special interest in Lepidoptera collections and the interdisciplinary understanding of conservation processes.

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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