Feathers and Fur

A magnified image of a peacock feather showing green, orange, and yellow striping in the gently curved barbs with iridescent barbules. A photomicrograph of the iridescence in a peacock plume at 20X magnification using a Keyence digital microscope.
R. Riedler/© AMNH

Fur, feathers, and other natural structures made from keratin present unique preservation challenges. These materials are especially vulnerable to damage from light exposure and pest infestation, and with time, they become both more brittle and more sensitive to water. 

From 2013-2022, the Science Conservation lab staff conducted research on the conservation of historic mammal and bird taxidermy mounts, with an emphasis on techniques for cleaning, restoration, and pest prevention. We are very grateful for the IMLS and their continued support of our work.

  • IMLS National Leadership grant MG-30-13-0066-13, Recoloring Faded Taxidermy, 10/1/2013–9/30/2017
  • IMLS National Leadership Research Grant, MG-60-18-0031-18, Continuing Conservation Research Challenges: The Impact of Cleaning and the Preservation and Restoration of Color on Historic Taxidermy, 9/1/2018–8/31/2022

Explore the sections below to learn more about fur and feathers in cultural heritage collections, related research at AMNH, and what caretakers for these collections can do to preserve them.