The time has come to renovate the museum's tural history section. Most of the wildlife displays in the museum consist of stuffed and mounted birds and animals. Many of these specimens are of considerable age, probably dating from the late Victorian or Edwardian period when setting up such a collection was the fashion. As well as looking very old fashioned, the ravages of time and the tiny bugs that feed on dead organic material have taken their toll. Many of the exhibits are now in poor condition.
Given this, and the growing unease among sections of the viewing public to the use of stuffed animals in displays, the museum has decided to re-organise the wildlife display. The main change will be to concentrate on wildlife that is particular to Mersea's estuarine environment. This will mean reducing the present two display cabinets to one. The general wildlife display will be removed and those specimens worth saving will be preserved and put into store.
The interior of the remaining cabinet will be re-designed to show a wider range of exhibits focusing on the shore, tidal mudflats and marsh environments around Mersea. Along with specimens of waders and waterfowl ,this will also include showing examples of invertebrates such as shellfish and crabs plus various seaweeds, etc. It is also hoped to show a small, shallow underwater section. The illustration accompanying this article is a working sketch showing the kind of display we hope to achieve.
In doing this we hope to appeal to a wider public, (ie. the non specialist visitors), who just want some general information about Mersea's seashore, mudflats and surrounding marshes.
Although we will be using fewer stuffed specimens in future displays, we have a duty to preserve, renovate and put into storage as many as possible for future use. It will involve placing each individual specimen in a sealed plastic bag and putting them in a freezer for several months. This will kill all the bugs and other organisms that could damage them in the future. Once "deloused" keeping them in the sealed bags will prevent any re-infestation. The museum is indebted to Jerry Bowdrey, Curator of Colchester Natural History Museum, and his team for their expert advice and recommendations.
Published in Mersea Courier 3 December 2010.