AMNH, Day 4

17 December 2009. New York, NY

I spent the day working on both enamel microstructure and molding specimens for microwear.

[exhibits: the spacious east entrance to the museum]

Last night I called Delta Airline, the delivery company, and spoke with the hostel staff where I was staying about my baggage again (it has become a routine since the beginning of this trip). Someone at the hostel was actually responsible enough to check their storeroom. And behold! They had my lost baggage there all along, and no one had bothered to check on it even after I inquired about it more than 10 times over the course of 4 days! Ok, calm thoughts, happy thoughts, channel the fury into research energy...

After my routine exhibit hopping in the early morning, I picked out the specimens suitable for molding, and tried to get in touch with Ms. Jeanne Kelly, the chief preparator in the Division of Paleontology. I needed to work with her to pick the best chemical to clean the surface of the teeth with to achieve 1) the cleanest tooth surface possible and 2) the safest technique by not damaging any specimens.

[exhibits: the reptiles hall with a very large snake skeleton]

[exhibits: a mount of the largest living lizard, the komodo dragon Varanus komodoensis]

I did not find her until after lunch, so I spent the morning hours examining microstructure of hesperocyonine dogs (I did not plan on doing it, but hey I have the time, so why not?). I had lunch at the "Shake Shack" just southwest of the museum's south entrance with Dr. Ni. At noon the temperature was chilly and a few degrees below zero (Celsius).

[the chilly south entrance of the American Museum of Natural History on a December noon]

In the afternoon I met with Jeanne and she set me up with my own supply of cotton swabs, gauss, acetone, and ethyl alcohol for cleaning teeth. Since some of the specimens in the Frick Collection were collected over 100 years ago, Jeanne said, there is no detailed record on what glue the previous preparators used on all specimens. Thus it took some experimentation and tenacity to get the surface clean.

I spent about two hours scrubbing teeth. Once the 20 specimens I chose were clean, I examined their microstructure before molding with a small applicator gun for two rounds. The first round cleaned off any remaining particles on the surface, and the second round molds are carried back home for casting.

[the chosen specimens being cleaned before the teeth are molded with a high resolution dental impression kit]

I returned to my hostel room with slightly swollen fingers from scrubbing teeth all afternoon, but slept without a worry as my research plan seem right on track now with the commencement of the tooth-molding.

One more day of full-on research and it's back home for Christmas; TGIF!



Spencer said...

And none of the older, unknown-glue teeth fell apart?

Zhijie (Jack) said...

You had to ask huh, Spencer? As I was wrapping up and taking off the last layer of mold, the very last tooth broke off! Good thing it was only an incisor, and the preparator was willing to fix it for me...

Spencer said...

Oooh...ouch! I still remember one unnamed person's story like that...haha....