23 September, 2022

Training course in conservation of natural history specimens

A first-of-its-kind three-month training course in the conservation of natural history specimens, supported by Tata Trusts under its Art Conservation Initiative, came to a successful end in the month of September 2022 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai.

During the course, six participants were trained in the best practices of conservation of natural history specimens in this intensive course, under the guidance of course leader Prof. Abdur Raheem. The curriculum was taught by visiting faculty from across various regional museums of natural history as well as assisted by a full-time course anchor, Haseeb Khan, who has a background in zoology and museology and is one of the conservators at CSMVS, Mumbai, engaged under the Art Conservation Initiative.

The participants hailed from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, with a background in science (zoology), museology, and some had experience in taxidermy. While Indian museums comprise sizeable natural history collections, its preservation requires a special skill set considering that these objects are fashioned out of biodegradable material like bone, skin and fur, as well as inorganic material. This course has taught the participants the processes related to conservation care of biological specimens including documentation, cleaning, restoration and apt housing conditions. With visits to the CSMVS natural history gallery, as well as Bombay Natural History Society and the Taxidermy Museum at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the participants were exposed to different collections and methods of preservation followed by custodians of these vulnerable collections. The participants will now be embarking on one-month long internships with museums that have natural history collections, to complete the requirements of the course.

Here are some glimpses of the training course in action.