What to do with wet and mouldy antlers?

The Knole collection does not have many natural history objects, apart from antlers.  Some, like those below, are quite small…

Antlers over the fireplace in the Brown Gallery.

…others are huge!

Irish Elk antlers that hang in the Loggia, found in a peat bog in the 18th Century. They are 10,000 years old!

The antlers from the Brown Gallery had temporarily been in store. Unfortunately where they were stored suffered from water ingress during the wild, wet and windy weather over Christmas.  The storage box they were in had collected a lot of dripping water.

This subsequently led to mould growth on the surface of the antlers.

As none of the antlers in the collection had become wet, or grown mould before, we weren’t sure what the best course of action was. So que an e-mail to the National Trust’s advisor on natural history Simon Moore.

Parts of the antlers were still very damp.

Simon’s advise was to dry any surface water off of them using paper towelling.  Then using a hogs hair brush, apply industrial methylated spirit to remove and neutralise any fungal growth.

Applying the methylated spirit.

After leaving methylated spirit on for about five minutes any excess fluid was removed with paper towelling.

Drying off excess methylated spirit.

Both antlers after methylated spirit treatment.

Then we needed to consider a suitable location to leave the antlers so they could dry out, but slowly.  If rapid drying was to occur this could have resulted in cracks and splits in the antlers. The relative humidity of the space chosen had to be between 50-55%.  So that meant there was only one room we could use, the Great Hall.  This is currently the only room in which we have consistent environmental control and could guarantee that the relative humidity would not get too high and potentially damage the antlers while they were drying out.

The antlers have been in the Brown Gallery since at least 1881, when this photograph was taken.

After two days drying out in the hall we inspected the antlers for any signs of active mould or the effects of drying out.  We’re pleased to say that the mould that had grown has gone with no evidence of new growth.  They have dried out nicely without incurring any damage.  We’ll update the object condition report to record the fact they got wet and grew mould and how we treated them and have them back on display for when the house re-opens on 8th March.

So now you know what to do should your antlers ever get wet and mouldy!

Alex, Emily, Lucy, Melinda, Sarah and Zena


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