Fun with Arsenic

Okay, so let’s get to the main reason for starting this blog today. Allow me to fill you in. A few weeks ago, we learned that arsenic was commonly used as a preservation agent in taxidermy from the 18th century until recent times. Naturally, this concerned us because we have a fine collection of stuffed birds so we ordered a test kit.

This afternoon, I found a smart little package on my desk. The arsenic test kit arrived! Such an exciting event just begged to be documented.

The kit looked like a high school chemistry experiment in a box (where are my safety goggles?) with four bottles of arsenic powder stuff, a reaction jar, a needle and some test strips. I plucked out a couple loose feathers from the bird’s leg and put them in the glass jar with some water and the powders. Then slid a test strip under the lid and waited. It was like waiting for a pregnancy test.  Was it or wasn’t it full of arsenic?

Thirty minutes elapsed and the strip turned dark brown. The colors on the test strip bottle indicate that the stuffed bird is indeed full of arsenic. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to safely dispose of the test liquid and what to do with our bird. For now, they both sit on my desk waiting for a decision.

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