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Specimen Lab Collection Policy

School of Humanities, Creative Industries & Social Sciences 

Discipline of Design 

Fauna Specimen Collection Policy  

1. Scope  

1.1 This policy pertains specifically to a study collection of preserved specimens of native fauna housed in the Natural History Illustration Laboratory Room UNH305 University House at the University of Newcastle’s City Campus, (henceforth referred to as “the Collection”). 

1.2 The Collection is held in accordance with Sections 132 and 120 of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 under General Licence MWL 000100418 issued at a small fee. 

1.3 Conditions stated on this Licence include: 

1.3.1 “A report of the activities allowed by this licence must be received by the Director General, Office of Environment and Heritage, prior to the renewal or the termination of this licence. The report shall contain a statement as to the number and species of fauna taxidermied, held, exhibited or disposed of under such authority.” 

1.3.2 “Taxidermy may only be carried out on native fauna that has been found dead from natural causes or road kills.” 

1.3.3 “Fauna taxidermied may not be sold to the general public.” 

1.3.4 “Fauna taxidermied must not be exhibited, transferred or disposed of without prior written permission of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.” 

1.3.5 “Species listed in Schedules 1 & 2 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act, and birds of prey must not be taxidermied and/or held as preserved specimens without the prior written approval of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.” 

1.3.6 “All details of preserved fauna purchased must be reported to the Department including name, address and licence number of taxidermist from which preserved fauna was obtained.” 

1.4 The Licence expires annually on 31st October, prior to which time an audit of protected fauna noting additions and losses is submitted to NPWS for the reissue of the licence. Records, notifications and inquiries should be to: The Director General, Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box 1967 Hurstville NSW 1481, ph 02 9585 6406, fax 02 9585 6401, wildlife.licensing@environment.nsw.gov.au. 

2. History 

2.1 The Collection was established in the early 1980s from a few existing taxidermy mounts of unknown origin. The specimens were found to be useful as models for drawing and painting wildlife in the discipline then known as Plant and Wildlife Illustration. As the program of study has grown, the collection has been augmented by:  

2.1.1 Acquisitions of prepared specimens from museums, taxidermists and private collectors, the most significant of noteworthy mention being: 

1980 – from William T. Cooper, renowned Australian bird artist: a personal collection of insects mostly from around Myall Lakes NSW in the 1950s-70s. 

2007 – from Christine Sanders, retired Senior Lecturer in Natural History Illustration: donated the insect (moths) collection of her deceased partner Professor Graham Gilchrist, one time Head of Fine Art and Design, mostly collected around the Smiths Lake and Hunter region during the 1980s. 

2008 – from George and Kathy Hangay, lifetime international collectors and taxidermists: donated approximately 50,000 insect specimens (mostly beetles) from Australia, South America, SE Asia, Central Africa and Middle Europe. 

2.1.2 Field-finds of deceased native fauna from University staff, students and associates. When required, specimens have been subsequently preserved in alcohol or mounted by registered taxidermists under the licence authority. Taxidermists used have been Mr Steve Heeren (1980’s, now deceased), Mr Alex Wang, Australian Museum, (NPWS Scientific Authority A1397), and Mr George Hangay (Educational Conservation Licence 10103). 

Included in field-finds are skeletal bones of native fauna, wild and domestic unprotected fauna, bird feathers, abandoned bird nests and naturally desiccated skins. 

2.1.3 Donations of deceased native fauna from veterinary practices and wildlife rescue organizations. Substantial contributions of specimens have been made by Ms Trudy Fennell, Rescuer for Native Animal Trust Fund Inc. and Ms Kathryn Davis, Bat Rehabilitator, Wildlife A.R.C. Dr Trevor Weekes, Lecturer in Natural History Illustration has added substantial numbers of taxidermy fauna specimens from his own studio as well as many skulls, skull replicas and articulated skeletons which are held as loans in the collection for student use whilst he is in the employ of the University. 

2.1.4 Numerous Australian raptors were added to the collection by then Collection Manager, Dr Daniel Atkins.

2.2 The collection was relocated to the City Campus to the room UNH305, University House, at the end of 2018 by Grace Removals, organised by then Collection Manager Alex Barnes-Keoghan, Tehnical Officer Luke O’Donnell, and Principle Project Management. This coincided with the School of Creative Industries’ (now home of the Natural History Illustration degree) move to this Campus. The entire collection was kept minus a small selection of non-taxidermied bagged specimens, that were donated to a local taxidermist company.

3. Mission Statement 

3.1 To collect, preserve, exhibit, and maintain a broad range of examples of native fauna for the purpose of visual reference and observational research, primarily for students of natural history illustration and more generally students of art and science, in order that they are given the opportunity to learn and relate details of form, texture, color and variations according to species, gender, maturity, and locality.  

3.2 The specimens will augment field studies of live animals of the local region. For practical, logistical, and economic reasons, the collection of large fauna will concentrate on Australasian species. In the case of insects, the collections may offer an appreciation of the diversity of the world’s insect population.  

4. Acquisition of Specimens  

4.1 The Collection will continue to be acquired by the means described in Para 2. and comprised mainly of, but not limited to: 

4.1.1 Australian native mammals  

4.1.2 Australian native birds 

4.1.3 Australian and worldwide insects 

4.1.4 Other fauna specimens to be considered practical from a visual perspective and in the interests of the Mission Statement.  

4.2 The Collection will be augmented from time to time by the Collection Manager.

4.2.1 Gifts and purchases of pre-prepared specimens (“purchase” being defined by payment for the services of biological preservation rather than the specimen itself). It is recognised that it is illegal to trade in any protected fauna. Trade in protected fauna specimens is governed by the Trade of Fauna Policy (NPWS). 

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/wildlifemanagement/policiesandguidelines.htm. 

4.2.2 Naturally deceased or accidentally killed native fauna found in the field by University staff, students and associates. These specimens are selected for suitability and subsequently preserved using registered taxidermists under the NPWS licence authority. Insect specimens are also prepared and preserved by the students with the assistance of a trained technical officer and, if desired, the student may bequeath the specimen to the collection.  

4.2.3 Donations of deceased native fauna from veterinary practices and wildlife rescue organizations. These specimens are accepted on the basis of suitability and preserved by registered taxidermists under the NPWS licence authority. 

4.2.4 Donations of whole or part collections along with proof of providence of the donated items. Any donations made to the collection for the purpose of gaining a tax concession according to their value will be received under the guidelines of the Australian Taxation Office and the University of Newcastle’s status as a Deductible Gift Recipient and the Cultural Gifts Program under the Subdivision 30-A and D of the Income Assessment Act 1997. 

5. Collection Management 

5.1 Auditing and Accountability: 

5.1.1 The collection is audited by the Collection Manager annually and those items pertaining to protected fauna are reported to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Wildlife Licensing Unit for renewal of the Educational (General) Licence. Any losses or additions are noted in this report. From 2009 the report will include acquisition information e.g. supplying taxidermist. 

5.1.2. The specimens are identified by name and number (See Appendix – Register of Specimens), secured in specified locations, labelled in situ in the Natural History Illustration Specimen Laboratory, UNH305, University House, University of Newcastle, Newcastle 2300. The register of specimens includes details (if known) of the name, acquisition date, source and mode of death.  

6. Care and Maintenance 

6.1 Access to specimens is controlled by the Collection Manager, academic and technical staff of the Natural History Illustration Programs.  

6.2 Maintenance of the collections is carried out by a trained technical officer (Collection Manager), who:  

6.2.1 Conducts regular inspections of the collection for evidence of damage or deterioration. 

6.2.2 Monitors environmental conditions. Temperature, humidity, sunlight and dust are agents for environmental deterioration. Infestation by insects is of major concern and their control is paramount to the successful establishment of a collection. Temperature should be ideally held in the range 18-22 degrees Centigrade, avoiding rapid variations. Humidity levels are ideally to be kept in the range 45%-55% avoiding rapid variations. High humidity will promote mould and low humidity may cause cracking of specimens.  

6.2.3 Arranges acquisitions, arranges identification labelling, housing and loans.  

6.2.4 Freezes and/or prepares incoming specimens prior to taxidermy. Fresh specimens should be carefully wrapped, birds in a stocking to hold feathers in place, wrapped in paper to provide packaging stiffness and sealed in plastic to eliminate moisture or to prevent freeze-drying. 

6.2.5 Arranges student access to specimens for drawing classes. Students may draw specimens in the natural history illustration laboratory or in adjacent teaching studios. On special requests, students may be allowed to take specimens home on loan for specified periods of time. 

6.2.6 Organises professional taxidermy by licensed practitioners.  

6.2.7 Repairs or arranges repairs to existing mounts. It is recognised that the collection is a working identity rather than a museum and while every effort is made to keep all specimens in good order, there may be some attrition due to natural deterioration and because of handling or accidental mishandling. Because of their fragility, insect specimens degrade at a rapid rate when handled; therefore, valuable specimens, especially those acquired through DGR donations are handled only by trained personnel and kept in exhibition quality as far as is possible. A small selection is made available to students for scientific illustration purposes. 

6.2.8 Employs safe pest extermination techniques. Pests are controlled by the use of household grades of chemicals as permitted under OH&S guidelines and freezing methods as specimen size permits. Fauna specimens are sealed in plastic bags and frozen periodically (every 1-2 years) for a period of 4 days before being returned to their storage/display cupboards. Insect specimens are kept in sealed drawers with sachets of naphthalene flakes. 

6.2.9 Monitors security control. Access to the natural history illustration laboratory is available to any student or staff member to have completed both the HCISS General Induction and the Level 1 Illustration & Painting Activities Induction. On weekends the laboratory are locked down, staff access only with appropriate approvals. 

7. Outgoing Loans 

7.1 Specimens are accessed by staff and students who work within the confines of the Natural History Illustration Laboratory (UNH305) and Illustration Studios (UNH143). Such loans from the Collection are noted in a “daily register”, monitored by teaching and technical staff.  

7.2 Individual requests to borrow specimens for further study outside this environment require a signed record of the loan registered by illustration staff or the Collection Manager. 

7.3 All specimens, having been thoroughly checked for damage must be returned to their storage cabinets when not being actively used. Damage, deterioration, or loss must be reported by the borrower to the Collection Manager as soon as it is realised.  

8. Incoming Loans  

8.1 Other institutions e.g. Australian Museum may lend specimens to the Collection, in order to satisfy specific student requests that cannot be met internally. The Collection Manager, on receipt of the specimen, signs the necessary Loan Agreement and Conditions of Loan (see Appendix 1). 

For the purposes of internal tracking, these specimens are deemed to be temporarily part of the Collection during the loan period and must be signed out by the student working with that specimen. The specimens cannot be taken beyond the immediate Natural History Illustration’s precinct and must be left in the care and control of the Collection Manager when not being actively used.  

8.2 Unless prior arrangement is made through the Collection Manager, academic staff or students who borrow or pick up specimens directly from the Australian Museum or any another institution must take full personal responsibility for those specimens, whether they be used for University’s natural history illustration projects or otherwise. 

9. Specimen Handling 

9.1 All persons accessing specimens from the collection must made aware of the Handling Instructions for Collection Specimens (see Appendix).  A notice of these instructions is displayed in the Natural History Illustration Laboratory. 

Appendix: Natural History Illustration Fauna Collection Policy – Handling

Handling Instructions for Collection Specimens 

The Natural History Illustration Collection is a valuable and necessary resource available to staff and students. In order to protect and minimise damage to this resource, we are providing you with these instructions. 

ALWAYS HANDLE SPECIMENS GENTLY, MANY ARE IRREPLACEABLE. 

Transport: 

Always transport the specimen the right way up and avoid stacking on top of other specimens. 

Damage: 

Should any damage occur, remember to save all parts of the specimen as breakages can often be successfully repaired.  Report any damage to the Collection Manager. 

Handling: 

SKELETONS (boxed, mounted, unmounted) 

  • Handle gently 
  • Use base where provided (if skeleton is articulated) 
  • When examining unarticulated skeletons, use a tray or container to ensure no small bones are disassociated or lost from the skeleton 
  • Moisture is an issue – specimens must not get wet or too humid 

MOUNTS AND STUDY SKINS 

  • Handle gently 
  • Move mounted specimens by carrying the wooden base. 
  • Limbs, beaks, and feathers can be fragile or brittle and may snap off if bent 
  • Treat skin carefully as it rips easily 
  • Use the body of birds to move the specimen if no base is present. Do not pick up or carry by the wings. 

 Danger Points: 

  • Feathers (need gentle handling, no stroking against the grain) 
  • Eyes – can come loose 
  • Moisture – specimens must not get wet or too humid 
  • Sawdust – report any sawdust exudate as this indicates insect attack 
  • Splitting – if specimen is split, take great care.  
  • WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE AND AFTER HANDLING SKINS AND MOUNTS. Older specimens were often dusted internally with arsenic. 
Updated on August 18, 2022

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