Tucking our Fossil Babes to Bed

Cutting foam for a chunky Abydosaurus femur on Thursday.

Tucking our Fossil Babes to Bed

Hi everyone! Week 3’s blog is of a similar melody to week 2, but the methodology we used to conserve the fossils was notably different.

While plaster cradles are fantastic for providing long-lasting and sturdy containers for fossils, they can be unwieldy and have large surface areas. Additionally, they are heavy, and this weight adds up when they are piled onto cabinet drawers and shelves. Therefore, if we use only this  method of protecting our fossils, we quickly run out of room and risk exceeding the weight limits of our storage equipment.

A great way to get around this problem is to use foam. Good foam offers a durable, lightweight support that keeps a fossil snug yet easily maneuverable. With this, we can protect smaller specimens like teeth and small toe bones and limbs while making Collections Tetris much easier for ourselves down the road.

At the start of the week, I felt virtually clueless on the methodology of using foam to these ends. Thankfully, Kellyn is our DINO intern cohort’s collections expert, so she facilitated my learning process. As it turns out, creating foam cradles is rather simple: Trace around the fossil and carve its approximate shape out of foam block (3-dimensional shape, so that all overhangs and curves are held tight) until the specimen is almost flush with the top of the foam block. Then, line the cavity with Tyvek, which is an acid-free, waterproof paper. The approach isn’t the same for every fossil–in the case of smaller pieces, we build from the bottom up using multiple layers of ¼” foam to fit the form of the specimen. Even so, the process is straightforward and generally more relaxed than mixing plaster, which is fun yet very messy and time-sensitive.

We’re still waiting on our large sandbox to be brought to the Visitor Center for our “Dino Demo” plaster demonstrations, so we focused our efforts on foam. We were able to get a lot of Allosaurus and sauropod material tucked into their new beds, and we taught over 500 people about it, to boot! Once the sandbox arrives, we’ll be able to show our foam and plastering processes simultaneously. We’re going to get so much work done!

See y’all next time,


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