The majority of the spirit collection is preserved in 80% Industrial Methylated Spirits. These specimens are vulnerable to damage through time and require ongoing curation to ensure their preservation.

Vanishing spirits

Spirit gradually evaporates over time, so the collection requires considerable attention to ensure that specimen jars remain topped up.

Spirit can also be affected by reactions with specimens, for example with fats or pigments. This may result in changes to the spirit’s preserving properties that can damage a specimen in the long term. In these cases, specimens are given a complete change of spirit.


Old labels, written on poor paper or in unsuitable ink, can rot in spirit or the writing may fade. Labels are salvaged and dried where possible and preserved separately; the data is deciphered and transcribed to new labels, cross-referenced to the originals. New labels are made from spirit resistant papers using spirit-fast inks. 

New specimens

New specimens are added to the collection on a regular basis.  In particular we are working to widen the species coverage of the collection, but also to ensure that we hold sufficient specimens of individual species to make them more readily available for dissections.

  • Jar of wild budgerigars preserved in spirit.
    Specimen jars

    Many jars in the collection date back to the mid-1800s. Find out how we deal with damage and choose the right jar for each specimen.