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A modern day detective story

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: At The Museum, Date: 19 May 2011

Unlocking the mysteries behind the Museum’s oldest showcase

Our oldest display case V10968

 © Australian Museum

We are currently in the midst of refurbishing our oldest showcase – conserving and re-interpreting the heritage crocodile case on Level 2. This case and contents are the last example of what were once common showcases used throughout early Museum displays.

This week was very exciting as we removed the sides of the case and took out the actual specimens. They were full of surprises! One piece that, on the outside looked like a dirty old plastic tube containing a snake skin, turned out to be a rather beautiful hand-blown glass tube, complete with cork stopper and, more importantly, a registration number. This now means that our Archives staff can look up the databases and track down more information about it. More on the importance of these numbers in museum collections can be found here.

The other surprise was the snake models. Cast from actual snakes, they appear to be older than we first thought. Again, our talented Archives staff are investigating when, who and how these were cast, however, as with many other ancient objects, sometimes we’ll just never know. We also discovered that the snakes are extremely delicate, with one of us (who shall remain nameless…) almost accidentally knocking off the Taipan’s tail! These objects have now been moved to our Materials Conservation laboratory where staff will assess what work needs to be done, what to repair and what to leave in order to make them look stunning again.

If you’d like to know more Vanessa, our Archivist, is documenting our progress on the Rare and Curious blog and more stories will appear here so watch this space.