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Friend's conservator examines iguanodon tail

FCPD’s conservator examines a broken iguanodon tail

 

Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs led conservation experts from English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk group and Bromley Council on a preliminary survey of the geological displays, including a visit onto the islands for a close-up look at the statues. This took place in May 2014.

Our goal was to ensure those responsible for these Grade 1 listed monuments understand the current conservation needs. We think those needs are urgent. We wanted officials to see with their own eyes the current state of affairs. We also wanted to get up close again ourselves to document ongoing changes.

Happily, the sun was out, and it was a beautiful morning in the park. As the survey went on, school children and passersby shouted their support for keeping the dinosaurs fit and healthy.

 

School children visiting 2014 May Crystal Palace FCPD

School children visiting Crystal Palace dinosaurs and shouting their support for FCPD’s conservation work.

 

Unhappily, the situation is declining rapidly. Of special attention on this visit were the iguanodons, Wealden pterodactyls, teleosaurs, and some of the ichthyosaurs. All show major problems. We also stressed the need for regular maintenance, more attention to landscaping and cutting overgrowth, graffiti, and more barriers to trespassing.

 

Pterosaurs 2014 May Crystal Palace FCPD

Pterosaurs on Secondary Island show damage that is easy to see (notice the loss of upper and lower jaws on the right specimen). They also show more subtle damage, such as cracking along the lower edge of the open wings on the left.

 

Both iguanodons show cracking. The standing iguanodon has been repaired extensively, but new problems have arisen. Most important, the front part of the body is slipping forward, down a small hill. This sliding forward is leading to new cracking on both sides of the body just behind the front limbs. In essence, it appears the front third of this statue is sliding away from the hind section. It is at risk of breaking apart.

 

Iguanodon 2014 May Crystal Palace FCPD

Close-up of Iguanodon shows cracking up the whole side behind forelimb. May 2014.

 

Some new conservation concerns came to our attention on this visit. For example, the lower jaw of the Megalosaurus shows cracking. Anyone visiting the statues can see this cracking in their own photographs.

 

Megalosaurus - 2014 May Crystal Palace FCPD

New discovery: close-up of Megalosaurus shows new cracking along the lower jaw. Also, a trespasser has hooked vegetation over a tooth. Yes, this might took funny, but it risks breaking off the teeth. May 2014.

 

Likewise, a crack is growing on the Mosasaur’s snout.

 

Mosasaur - 2014 May Crystal Palace FCPD

New discovery: close-up of Mosasaur snout shows deep cracks. May 2014.

 

While most visitors focus on the major statues, some of the smaller features in the site also need more care and attention. FCPD volunteers could not locate the replica ammonite on Secondary Island. It has either gone missing, or it has been overgrown by vegetation. The situation looks dire for the replica cycad stumps. These are tearing and rotting. One careless footstep, or one misstep on this step slope, and the cycads will be destroyed.

 

Replica cycads - 2014 May Crystal Palace FCPD

New discovery: close-up of replica cycads on Secondary Island (near the Iguanodons) show these are rotting. May 2014.

 

On the tour, our visitors frequently expressed concern for low level of regular maintenance and for the seeming amount of inattention since the last major restoration over a decade before, supported as part of a major grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

 

Volunteers - 2014 May Crystal Palace FCPD

FCPD volunteers documenting the teleosaurs. Systematic photography helps us build up a meticulous record for conservation. May 2014.

 

What happens next? English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk took extensive notes and photographs during their visit. They are reviewing the situation and will report on their assessment in the near future. FCPD has followed up with older photographs for comparison.

 
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