National Conservation Centre Liverpool

March 10, 2011

England

I was sad to read, in the January edition of Museums Journal (yes, I know, I’m a little behind with my reading), that the National Conservation Centre in Liverpool closed its doors to the public in December. I still have fond memories of a field trip we took there during my museum studies days, spear headed by our conservation lecturer who hailed from Liverpool herself, and was so enthusiastic about her subject that it was infectious – boy, was that woman born to teach! But I digress. So, as I remember it, we were divided into groups and each group got to visit three sections to see different types of conservation at work. I can’t actually remember what our third one was; one was metal work, where some black wrought iron was being restored to its former glory, and the other was taxidermy. And it is here that the memorable part of our trip lies.

We were the last visitors of the day. “Tell you what”, says the taxidermist on duty, “since you’re the last, I’ll do you a special treat!” And before we knew what was happening, he had whipped out a fresh stoat from the freezer and had it on its back, scalpel poised. As he nimbly and skillfully proceeded to cut open the stoat, peel off the skin, and flip it inside out, the taxidermist happily chatted away, telling us about his three daughters who could all, by the time they were twelve, skin a small mammal like the next person. I’m normally quite squeamish, but on this occasion I was caught somewhere between morbid fascination and the man’s boundless enthusiasm (another person who unequivocally loved their job), though the sight of the everted stoat coupled with the musky smell that was spreading through the room was too much for two of the girls in our group, who went quite pale and withdrew from the demonstration. It was truly what you could call a multi-sensory experience!

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