Fish makes unusual appearance in hospital
24 February 2014
Museum staff took a large 19th century sunfish for an x-ray at the local hospital last week.
RAMM works closely with many local partners addressing health and wellbeing issues so, when the conservation department needed to take a close look at the insides of the sunfish, the museum turned to the local hospital for help. The fish was x-rayed early in the morning before patient appointments began at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
The 127 year old specimen was caught in the Exe Estuary near Powderham, donated to the Museum, and was stuffed by the Museum’s first curator, William D’Urban. At some point in its history, a large piece of wire had been inserted, which the museum staff would like to remove in order to conserve the specimen.
“We needed to know how and where the wire had been inserted so that we can remove it without causing further damage to the fish”, said Susannah Bartindale, a conservation work placement student from Durham University, currently working at the museum. “We’re very grateful to the hospital radiography department for helping us out. Having examined the x-ray, we believe that the piece of bent wire, looking rather like a coathanger, was probably used to hang the specimen, perhaps to display it on a wall. Now we’ve been able to see inside the fish, we know the wire is not part of an integral internal frame, so we can carefully remove it and repair the damage it’s caused so that this fascinating specimen can remain in the museum for future generations to study.”
The fish is of particular interest to the museum because of its great age and local relevance. Mola mola, which is found in tropical and temperate oceans, would have been a very rare find at the time it was caught, although the species is now more frequently found off the south west coast, probably because of climate change.
When the conservation work is complete, D196b, as the fish is known, will be returned to the collections, available once again for study and research.