Update: Mystery Skeleton

May 28, 2008

Oh deer...
Creative Commons License photo credit: Todd Huffman

Saturday, May 10th (day 1) we started the mystery skeleton project (check out my last post if you don’t remember). Tuesday the 13th, I reread my Bone Builder’s Notebook where it specifically states not to use bleach until the very end and only if you need to lighten the bones. Hmmm. On well. This is an experiment and a learning process so no worries. Nothing is ruined (yet).

I have dumped out the water, rinsed the bones and filled the tub with FRESH water so as to encourage the bacteria to finish the job.  The soaking of bones to let bactierial critters do the dirty work is called maceration. I also moved the bones to the backyard.  It seemed prudent as we already have a reputation in the neighborhood for being really weird.

One of the biggest problems, apparently, with mounted skeletons is that they need to be “degreased”. The fatty tissue inside the marrow oozes out over time if it isn’t taken care of at the beginning.  The leaking isn’t harmful to the bones, and in fact several museums chose to leave the tissue inside the bones so that they don’t get brittle over time.  The problem with this is that the bones may need to be cleaned of a sticky residue which collects dust and then causes the bones to look dirty.

Dog skeleton
Creative Commons License photo credit: Saveena (AKA LHDugger)

While Dave is gone the next two weeks in Malta, I think I will try some of the other finishing techniques (chemical) and see if I can’t get the bone cleaned and laid out. We’ll see.  I am also having Kat order some dermestid beetle larvae for me to see about cleaning a mummified bull frog skeleton. (Note: If you are for whatever reason feeling inspired by this post to go make your own skeletons, please do some research! If left to thier own devices Dermestid beetles, for example, will destroy everything in your home. Lee Post, as well as several other preparators are willing to advise you!)

Authored By Nicole Temple

Nicole has worked for HMNS in some capacity since 1996, whether part-time, full-time or as a volunteer. She taught for seven years in public school, including four years in Fort Bend and a short stint overseas. While she never taught science, she was always the teacher called when someone needed to remove a swarm of bees, catch a snake in the playground, or get the bat off the ceiling of the cafeteria.

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