The Tale of a Whale, or rather the Teeth. . .

Posted on
Pocket Knife with Baleen (suspected) handle
ca. 1878-1882
Credit: The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Hello! As this my first blog at The Mariners’ Museum and Park I will introduce myself.  My name is Molly McGath and I’m the new Analytical Chemist here at the museum.  I imagine some of you might be a bit surprised at the idea of a chemist  working in a museum.  I do many different kinds of chemical analysis of museum objects, including chemical identification and characterization, exploring deterioration mechanisms of objects, and studying the short-term and long-term behavior of conservation treatments.   To give you a better idea of what my job is like, I’ll share a project I worked on right after starting.

First the Tale. . .

Conservator Paige Schmidt brought me a question about an object she was treating.  She wanted to know whether the handle of this knife (see image below) was made from baleen.  So I started the process of chemical analysis.   Read more