Darren Tanke’s Gorgosaurus preparation 12: specimen preparation planning

Update December 1-3. Often overlooked, specimen preparation involves varying degrees of advance planning, or, in the case of this Gorgosaurus, revised planning. Some specimens are simply reprepared because they were damaged in a specimen drawer or were badly prepared in the first place. Several factors drive what specimens are prepared and which ones are not. Some are simply done “because they are there” and represent the general backlog of specimens found at museums worldwide. These specimens are of lesser importance (but still have some, or else they never would have been collected) and have slipped through the cracks and missed out on getting worked on. Often these are just a single bone that requires only a few hours or a couple days to finish, and are often perfect training projects for new, inexperienced staff or volunteers.
At our museum we have numerous specimens like these that go back to the mid 1960’s; these are slowly being worked on now making them available to current and future researchers. Other museums have material from Alberta collected around WWI! The main things that drives what gets priority and what does not often revolves around research projects by Tyrrell staff or students/professional colleagues working on Albertan material for their thesis projects or other research. Another consideration is public display. If a new theropod gallery is planned, a search of catalogue records or unprepared field jackets might reveal something new and exciting to work on. Presently at Tyrrell, there is a move to get all skulls or specimens with skulls prepared. I’d have to say that over the past 2-3 years we are preparing specimens faster than we are collecting them- a turnaround position for most museums who often steadily fill their unprepared specimen storage areas.

Preparation projects often involve ongoing or revised planning and the Gorgosaurus is no exception. It was originally planned to prepare the specimen showing one side only as it was unclear how much (or how little) of the skeleton was there. However, with all the preparation we have witnessed on this blog and the Royal Tyrrell Museums Facebook page, those plans have now changed. We now know much of the skeleton is present. Given the small size of the skull (about 50 cm long), several researchers have expressed their desire to have the skull removed and fully prepared. There is also an interest to see what was preserved on the other side as it was not fully uncovered in the field owing to preservational issues (shattered rock) – issues best dealt with in a controlled laboratory setting where there is no exposure to the weather and no time pressure commitments which often frustrate a field worker. In about 1.5 weeks there will be a meeting among Tyrrell Museum senior staff and others to decide the future of the preparation phase of the Gorgosaurus. It seems likely it will be flipped over and worked from the other side. If that is the case, then I can make plans towards that eventuality and prepare/not prepare certain areas. All or some of the specimen seen in the pictures here may be moulded first. Some of the better preserved parts may be removed permanently. Or none of this may happen. A future update will detail these revised plans.

The pictures today were taken on December 3rd. The Gorgosaurus underwent an extensive cleaning. As all pieces visible and their surrounding rock are now glued and stabilized, it is OK to carefully vacuum up all the rock chips and dust. Once that was done the pictures were taken from a raised platform and a ladder which gave a vantage point about 2 metres above the specimen.

Dave adds: Here I’m first reposting a couple of the early photographs to show the contrast and just how far Darren’s work has come in just a few weeks. For drama, the new images are below the fold. As ever, all photos here and in the series are owned by Darren Tanke and the Royal Tyrrell Museum. These should not be reproduced or embedded without permission.

Inside the jacket

And now the progress:

1 Response to “Darren Tanke’s Gorgosaurus preparation 12: specimen preparation planning”

  1. 1 Darren Tanke’s Gorgosaurus preparation: final roundup « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 22/02/2011 at 9:00 am
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