19 Dec 2016

Really Wild Restoration:
Part 2

Following on from the examination of Edward XIII’s taxidermied boar in Part 1 , it was now time to undertake the restoration of this specimen.

The first stage in the restoration of the boar was to remove loose surface dust and dirt, using a vacuum. This was made more difficult by the coarse and inflexible fur covering much of the boar, so a stiff-bristled brush was used to sweep out dust trapped within the fur.

Conservator Ben cleaning the taxidermy boar

The green paint on the fur was removed using solvent swabs. Care was taken to place a sheet of blotting paper beneath the areas of fur being cleaned so that the paint wasn’t accidently transferred deeper into the fur by the solvent.

Solvent swab to remove the green paint

The glass eyes, teeth, tusks, and hooves were cleaned using deionised water containing a small amount of ethanol, applied on cotton wool swabs. The hooves were then given a coat of synthetic wax to restore some lustre to them.

The deposits of arsenic in the ears could be removed by careful application of deionised water and ethanol on cotton swabs. The ethanol serves to break up the surface tension of the water, and increases the rate at which it evaporates away, ensuring that the skin doesn’t remain too damp.

Next, the cracks around the eyes, ears, and snout were filled using a mixture of butyl methacrylate (an acrylic resin) and calcium carbonate (chalk), with microscopic glass spheres added to provide additional bulk. Any excess filler was carefully removed, before the fills were shaped and smoothed to match the contours of the surrounding areas.

Filler mixture made of an acrylic resin and chalk

The cracks around the boar's eye treated with the filler

The broken tail treated with filler

The broken tail was glued back into place using an acrylic resin, and a little filler was added to the break area to fill the crack and provide extra strength to the joint.

In order to save the damaged trotter from having to bear the weight of the boar, once the bent metal supporting rod extending from the leg had been adjusted back into a more vertical position - as it would have been originally - a steel plate was attached to it just beneath where the lowest point of the trotter would be situated.

The boar's leg during the conservation treatment

The trotter was then re-attached to the leg using acrylic resin, and the damaged area around the joint was filed in the same way as the cracks in the skin.

The trotter re-attached to the leg

The weight of the boar will now be carried by the metal plate, sitting inconspicuously beneath the trotter. (The wooden board pictured is serving to spread the weight of the boar whilst it is sitting on a base of foam in the conservation laboratory, and will not be required once the boar is on display on a wooden plinth).

The boar's eyes, snout and leg treated with the conservation filler

All of the areas on in-filling were painted to match the surrounding areas using acrylic paints. Thorough records were made of the locations of all of the fills so that it will be clear in future that they are not original features.

The boar's eye area after in-filling and painting

The finished boar after conservation treatment

The decision was taken to leave the imitation blood dating from the boar’s time at the Natural History Museum in place, as it represents an important aspect of the history of the specimen, along with the patch on the boar’s flank.

With the boar clean, complete, and free of disfiguring damage, it is ready to once again take its well-deserved place on public display.

The boar will be on display as part of the expanded natural history exhibition at Thinktank from June 2017.

The finished boar after conservation treatment