Half a million specimens in her care

Half a million specimens in her care
Ms Kate Pocklington is tasked with restoring and repairing the collection of animal specimens to be moved to the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

It is a task as mammoth as filling Noah's Ark - except with dead animals, not live. And just as in the biblical tale, the clock is ticking.

With just six months to go, work is intensifying at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research to restore and prepare about 2,000 animal specimens for display ahead of the big move to the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, ready in mid-2014. The work on the specimens is just over halfway through.

After these are installed, another 488,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, crustaceans and other invertebrates in the collection lie in wait.

The "Noah" behind this gargantuan move is 27-year-old British conservator Kate Pocklington, who arrived in Singapore in May last year. She has been single-handedly tasked with restoring and fixing up the museum's trove of specimens.

Many are more than a century old, and some have fallen into disrepair from being moved between institutions over decades.

"Quite a traumatic history," notes Ms Pocklington, who used to work at the University of Oxford's Museum of Natural History.

A saltwater crocodile from 1887, for example, has had some claws pulled out, probably by mischievous children, she said. These she has had to recreate. Its dried skin has also shrivelled over time, requiring her to custom-make an aluminium frame to support it.

She has also had to clean a dugong skeleton from 1885 that had been artificially whitewashed, and painstakingly reconstruct an orang utan skeleton stored in pieces.

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