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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: preparators (3)

Preparing to Think Ahead

Author
by Alice
Publish date
5 December 2013
Comments
Comments (2)

The whole preparation department have been hard at work over the past few months getting their creations ready for the opening of Scienceworks' new permanent exhibition, Think Ahead.

I went to visit the team during their last week of preparation to see some of their projects in the final stages of development.

Building model houses Building model houses
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

What has always impressed me about all the clever individuals in the preparation department is that their job combines highly refined artistic skills with science and design....and a whole lot of patience and lateral thinking!   

The team’s recent body of work for Think Ahead is certainly a testament to their craft. Using a creative mix of materials ranging from state-of-the-art plastic technology to readymade dollhouse furniture, the team have created a wide range of objects and interactives for permanent display including plastic foods, futuristic human figurines, replica ice cores, miniature dioramas and life-sized human mannequins. They even utilised the museum’s 3D printer to produce miniature model tyres for their futuristic farm machinery.

3D printed tyres 3D printed tyres
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Future food Future food
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

With the exhibition targeted at 8 to 12 year olds, the team have included many clever little twists to catch the eye of their audience. In one display, a model dolls house that shows the evolution of a child’s bedroom from the turn of the century to today, and references to contemporary pop culture are included in the form of mini Diablo and Angry Birds posters pasted on the walls of the modern bedroom. 

Bedroom diorama Bedroom diorama
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Other creations such as Michael Pennell’s future human figurines and Steven Sparrey’s silicone life sized mannequin (modelled from Michael's face) look like props right from the set of a new sci-fi blockbuster.

Future human figurines Future human figurines
Image: Alice Gibbons
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Think Ahead opens this week at Scienceworks.

Modelling Myee's hands

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
16 April 2013
Comments
Comments (9)

Last Friday Myee Patten, daughter of MV staff member Will Patten, came to work with her dad to stick her hands in a bucket of goo. This might seem an odd school holiday activity, but it will help exhibition curators demonstrate the toys of Aboriginal children in the Toy Stories section of First Peoples. For scale and context, children’s objects are best shown in the hands of children– so we needed to model some hands for this important task. Myee was willing to let us borrow her hands for the job.

Girl having her hands moulded Myee with her dad, Will, sitting very still and waiting patiently as museum preparators make a mould of her hands.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This pink goo, or alginate, is most commonly used by dentists to make impressions of teeth. It’s non-toxic, flexible when set, and smells just like a dentist’s office! It’s also extremely fast-setting so the preparators mixed it up as quickly as possible and poured it over Myee’s hands as she held the poses needed to demonstrate the objects in use.

Two men stirring pink mixture Preparators Pete and Steven in a stirring frenzy as they mix up the pink goo as quickly as they can!
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Myee’s first job was to hold her hands as if cradling a baby, to support a clay doll from Milingimbi in Arnhem Land in the 1930s. The second time round, Myee held a fragment of lignum as if she’d just flicked a mudswitch, a popular game among children growing up along the Murray River.

Pete and Myee with the mould Pete and Myee with the freshly-set mould of her hands.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Myee did an excellent job of staying completely still while the alginate set. Once it was solid – and you can tell this because the colour changes from purple, to pink, through to white –  Myee carefully wriggled out of the mould, leaving behind an exact impression of her hands.

plastic tubs of liquid plaster Mixing up the plaster ready to pour into the mould. This is a special mix of plaster and cement that sets extremely hard.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Minutes after her hands were free, the preparators filled the moulds with hard-setting liquid plaster. A few hours later, they extracted the casts. The preps will remove any rough bits and prepare the casts for their important job of display. And in years to come, when Myee visits with her school or family, she can point out to her friends how she lent us a hand (or two)!

Removing the cast hands from mould Preparators Brendan and Pete carefully removing the cast of Myee's hands from the mould. This model will support the clay doll.
Source: Museum Victoria

cast of hand A cast of Myee's hand holding a piece of twig. The process that the museum's preparators use captures every skin wrinkle and tiny detail.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

MV News: Will Patten "Talking to everybody"

MV Blog: Mudswitches on the plaza

What's that smell?

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
4 January 2011
Comments
Comments (6)

Every now and then, those of us who work at Melbourne Museum receive a polite but slightly troubling email:

"The Preparation Department needs to undertake work today that may generate some odours."

I can’t think of another workplace where stench warnings are a regular occurrence. They’re intriguing, too, because I always wonder what they’re doing down there in the basement.

Our skilled preparators do much as their name would suggest: they prepare things, from animal specimens for research collections to intricate models for display. Their job combines elements of biology, taxidermy, sculpture and painting and their work area is a den of creativity and practicality that is stocked with tools and equipment and art supplies.

In mid-December, a Gray’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon grayi) unfortunately was stranded at Portland and died. Given the rarity of this species, and MV’s strength in the study of whales, its skeleton is a valuable addition to our research collection. The preparators perform the somewhat gruesome but necessary task of cleaning the skeleton, and that’s where the odour comes in.

Gloves hanging in the Preparation Department The Preparation Department's collection of rubber gloves - essential tools in this line of work.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Preparator Steven Sparrey explained the facilities in which large specimens are prepared. The specimens are placed in a sequence of water baths in the ominously named ‘maceration tank’ which allows the animal’s soft tissues to loosen away naturally from the bones without damaging them. It’s not pretty and it doesn’t smell good. After this, the bones are given a soapy wash and dried thoroughly.

Preparation Department The sealed room that holds the maceration tank (at the back) and cleaning benches.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some astonishingly large vertebrae from the backbone of a whale were on the drying racks. These were prepared for the Melbourne Aquarium from another stranded animal. The bones were quite yellow and Steven explained that the stains are from the whale’s oils, and they would be bleached by the sun once they were properly dry.

Whale vertebrae drying Whale vertebrae in the drying racks.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Shortly after that, he firmly suggested that we leave the area because the smell tends to cling to clothing. Needless to say, he doesn’t wear his work clothes home on the train. So there you have it – perhaps not one of the most glamourous jobs at the museum, but an essential task to maintain Victoria’s collection of our state's fauna.

Links:

Model-making for Dynamic Earth

Climate change and whale evolution

Fossil unlocks secrets to the origin of whales

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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