200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 162: “Exhibiting Our Treasures ”

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exhibit preparator working of a fish skull mount
Dan Austin mounting the skull of a gar from the Ichthyology Collection.

Exhibiting Our Treasures

From March 24, 2012, until March 2013, the Academy’s bicentennial exhibit, The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery, will celebrate the groundbreaking discoveries of the past and present and provide a glimpse into our future as one of the world’s greatest natural history museums. The exhibit will feature an 80-foot-long wall with an extraordinary sampling of the Academy’s more than 17 million specimens from nature, such as birds, minerals, fossils, and more.

Protecting these priceless specimens, which range from a bird skin weighing only a few ounces to a 96- pound mineral, involves careful mounting. The Academy has hired a team of highly skilled mount makers to complete this intricate work. Having worked for the National Archives and the Smithsonian, these mount makers are experienced in handling items of immense historical value and importance. They have learned about specimen handling and gained expertise in mount making through a museum technology program, contact with collection managers and curators, and on-the-job training.

When assembling a custom-made mount, mount makers must consider the fragility of a specimen along with the length of time the specimen will be on display. Not only must the mount makers make mounts that hold the weight of each specimen; they also must make sure that certain parts of the specimens do not bear more weight than they can handle. After the mounts are complete, the team will paint the mounts to match the specimens perfectly. Exhibit fabricators will attach the mounts, which are made of brass and solid steel depending on the weight of the specimen, to the wall of the exhibit.

The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery opens on March 24 in time for Bicentennial Weekend. We can’t wait to see you there!

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