Cleaning the World, One Coral at a Time
As I cleaned this beautiful, huge coral specimen I wondered what it had seen during its existence. It had obviously grown large in some warm sea along with its brethren. I could clearly see how its tentacles would wave in the current even though now it is as if made of stone.
At some point, small mollusks that look like tiny clams took up residence deep down in the recesses at the bottom of some of the tentacles. To me, they appeared to be folded pieces of brown paper. It’s a good thing I asked before touching them. They will remain exactly where they are.
This coral was removed from its environment by a collector, and it and its attendant mollusks eventually came to reside in the museum’s collection. As I cleaned it, I removed black fuzz, brown paper strings and very small pieces from the end of the tentacles that had been broken off in handling over the years. Perhaps the fuzz came from someone’s sweater and the strings from an old tag or other identifier.
So, all cleaned, tagged, barcoded, photographed and scanned to a database, the coral continues the next segment of its existence nestled on a bed of soft foam in beautiful new cabinetry built especially for it. Any scientist can now study it and, perhaps, enhance our knowledge of this fragile, invaluable creature.