Tending museums through the crisis

Atlas Obscura has an article by Jessica Leigh Hester looking at how curators and staff are tending museum collections and infrastructure while hallways are empty: “The Strange, Smelly Chores That Keep Natural History Museums Running”.

The tapir bones rest in a solution of diluted ammonium hydroxide, which pulls out marrow and fat and arrests bacterial growth. They are not far from the remains of okapi and goats that are wrapped in tarps, as well as squirrels, bats, and rodents that sit in containers on shelves. In this case, a little bit of the malodorous, milky-white fluid from the tapir’s bin had trickled out and pooled on the floor. Ferguson cleaned it up and went on his way. It wasn’t a crisis, but it was a good reminder: Museums are dynamic environments, and staff members are always doing their damnedest to fend off entropy.

If you wonder about how dermestid beetle colonies are maintained, or the effects of clothing moths on mounted crustaceans, this article is for you. Entropy is a good word for the problems that are constantly sapping away collections of biological specimens.