Preservation and Storage of your Fossils

While collecting fossils you will come across some which are very fragile and may be prone to disintegration. If you have found a rare fossil BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ring the Museum. Do not try to fix it yourself.

                                              Science isn’t science on your coffee table.

For those fragile or broken fossils which you wish to add to your collection, make sure your storage area is dry and protected.

For those fossils which require chemical treatment, remember Chemicals can be dangerous and require adult supervision in accordance with the safety directions on the packet/bottle. You should use rubber gloves and eye protection whenever handling chemicals. Have a well ventilated room and never use near a naked flame or heat source.

In the past, some collectors have used a mixture of  PVA glue and Acetone to put a protective layer on some fossils. The benefit of this treatment is that both PVA glue and Acetone are readily available and it is able to be reversed and cleaned off, but with some possible damage to the specimen. The treatment although preserving the specimen gives a slight sheen to the surface, so the preference is for Paraloid B-72

The preferred current method of many conservators is the use of Paraloid B-72 which is a thermo-plastic resin (also dissolved in Acetone). Paraloid B-72 (B-72) comes in a dry form of broken shards as seen below.

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B-72 is mixed with Acetone. This evaporates quickly and you are best to mix it in small amounts and seal it in an air tight bottle or jar. The mixing must be vigorous and takes several minutes. It may be helpful to put it in the air tight jar first to soak and after half an hour stir it.

B-72 may be used as either an adhesive or as surface  protection depending on the percentage used.

The formula is a s follows;

As a surface protection;

6 grams of B-72 to 200 ml of Acetone gives 3% mixture.

As a glue;

80 grams of B-72 to 200 ml of Acetone

While the use of electronic scales is good

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if you don’t have scales then use:

20-22 shards (6 grams) to 200 ml = 3% mixture.

265 shards (80 grams) to 200ml for adhesive

The following fossil has been treated as indicated

Wet     Application of B-72. The shell absorbs B72 from the cotton bud.

Right Side Treated    Right half painted with B-72. Left half untouched.

Dry Paraloid 20 seconds later    Whole shell is dry after 20 seconds

For further information follow the following link Tips for the Vertebrate Fossil Preparator

STORAGE OF YOUR COLLECTION together with its documentation is as important as the fossil find itself. Without good notes at collection, your fossil may lose much of its provenance. A fossil without provenance is of little if any  use to science.

Typical notes which should be taken while fossil collecting are as follows;

  • Name of Collector
  • collection number (——).
  • The Phylum (————-)
  • The species name
  • Anything special about the specimen
  • Rock in which found
  • location including GPS
  • Country
  • Date of collection.

Storage.

There is a variety of options for the storage of fossils. The type of storage is dependant on the use you will make of your collection and if it is to shown to others. Any storage container which secures the specimen and protects it from damage is acceptable including old chocolate boxes, and packaging of all types.

A basic but convenient storage is the cardboard box. These can be purchased on EBAY (Jewellers Boxes) or even from $2 shops (called gift or party boxes). A cardboard box can be written on with the relevant detail. Jewellers boxes commonly come with cotton wool padding. This may be retained or other padded inserts may be substituted if required.

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Boxes are easily stored in shelves, sets of drawers or other boxes to house your collection. One thing is certain. An avid collector will need to rehouse the collection frequently as it grows. This re-housing should retain the integrity of the noted details of the fossil. A register is easily made on a home computer which can also include a photograph of the specimen and perhaps a photograph of the find location. GPS apps are readily available on smart phones and GPS Co ordinates should be noted at fossil finds.

Another method of storage which is secure and presents well is the use of Gem Jars. These are readily available on Ebay although more expensive than the boxes. They come in varying sizes and may be contained in a tray or loose in foam sheets. The sets of gem jars in trays are very useful as they can be stacked. They offer the opportunity to view the specimen without handling it and a round self adhesive tag underneath can contain a unique number which can be loaded into your register of fossils. Gem jars may not be large enough for some of your specimens and so a petri dish may offer a good alternative with a cut foam blanket to hold the specimen. In a similar way to the trays of gem jars, you can load these larger petri dishes into boxes with a layer of foam (cut out to fit the petri dish or individual fossil). See below.

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In order to cut foam circles to fit differing size gem jars or petri dishes use a tin can with the top cut out (using a sideways cutting can opener). Beware the sharp edge. Rest the edge on the foam and turn slowly to “cookie cut” the required hole. An adjustable cutter may be made by cutting off the top and bottom with a side cutting tin opener and then cutting length ways along the tin. A metal hose clamp will hold the round shape and allow adjustment to size.

Small sets of storage drawers are available at major office supply outlets. These are available in timber, carboard and metal. A more expensive option (workshop tool drawers ) may be obtained for hardware stores. Otherwise use an existing cupboard or shelves (not in a laundry or other wet area).

Your fossils have survived for millions of years in the open. With your good storage and curation it can be preserved indefinitely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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