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We have completed our work on the Wallace Palms!

This image is of a small section of the palm stem of Euterpe oleracea in its original condition prior to conservation work.
Euterpe oleracea collected in 1881 by Wallace and Bates. Shown here after cleaning and prior to reattachment.
The fruiting branches (racemes) of Euterpe oleracea had to be correctly re-positioned after cleaning. Annette is shown here carefully holding the branches in place prior to stabilisation.
The finished product! The specimen has been stabilised and bound with original twine. Fragments and data labels are kept together with the palm.
This palm leaf of Teysmannia sp. is so fragile that even breathing was not allowed! Vicky is using tiny swabs of cotton wool to carefully wipe away the dirt.

Over recent months, botanical conservators Vicky Purewal and Annette Townsend have been carrying out painstaking work on a series of eleven historical palm specimens. They were collected around 1850 by the renowned British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) during his travels in the Amazon. Wallace is best known for his studies on evolution, which helped trigger the publication of Charles Darwin’s ground breaking research ‘Origin of Species’.

The Wallace palms reside at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the curators there requested that Vicky and Annette, who are specialist conservators in botanical collections at AC-NMW, carry out the necessary conservation work. The specimens are over 150 years old and had to endure adverse conditions in the hold of a ship, and then later to contend with soot and pollution from Battersea Power station. The palms were understandably very fragile and in need of plenty of careful cleaning, re-structuring and repackaging so that their true splendour could be appreciated by all. The palms have been re-housed in custom made boxes so that they can travel back to Kew safely and are also now fit for display.

You will be able to see the palms for yourself on display at AC-NMW in Oct 2013, as RBG Kew will be loaning some of the collection for our Wallace’s bicentenary exhibition and celebrations.

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