The ongoing salvage operation here has unearthed hundreds of Riker mounts, whose occupants span the spectrum from frass to fascinating. What should we do with them? Here’s a sampling of what we’re dealing with:
Now multiply that by five or maybe even ten. We have tons of these displays … and I’m not a fan of the medium. Here’s what I hate about Riker mounts:
- They’re inefficient. We have a whole tall cabinet full of Rikers, which, if they were pinned specimens, could be compressed to a couple drawers worth of insects. Space is at a premium here and just about everywhere.
- They make for terrible displays. The three dimensionality is lost, for one, and the cotton often appears as if it’s the intended subject (see below). Rikers also look dated to me, right from the day they’re created. They appear before me like some holdover from several decades ago, back before we knew how to properly preserve insects.
- Related to that, specimens in these contraptions are inaccessible. I guess that’s the point of a Riker mount. They’re usually used for aesthetics or for educating non-experts, like kids. (What’s wrong with a shadow box?)
- I also don’t find them to be especially protective. Specimens are pressed right up against the glass in many cases (maybe these are bad mounts?), which causes appendage (see below) and scale loss.
Cool skippers! And they’re in great shape and have data associated with them (handwritten on the back)! They were collected almost a century ago, which is pretty awesome, but can we trust the data? There is no name associated with most of these specimens.
We have many displays like this – butterflies collected in the early 1900s, all in great shape and most with data that we can easily interpret. Should they be sprung from their cotton confinement (insert bad joke about Riker’s here), or should we continue to store them like this – as one original unit? Can we pull specimens out and pin them? Sounds dubious. I’d like to do something efficient and archival with these specimens, given their historic value. I want to move them into a situation where people can actually benefit from their data (or at the very least their pretty wings).
One final note about storing them in their original condition: These Rikers were stored in the same room as that old teaching collection and a handful of specimens have been eaten by dermestids. That affected <10% of the Rikers, though, so it’s not such a big deal. A more common problem is damage to the mount itself from silverfish (see below). Again, not a dire situation, but I definitely feel like the clock is ticking to take action.
UPDATE: I posted this question to the Entomological Collections Network email list, which resulted in some good dialog.