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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Environmental monitoring

In order to remain aware of the conditions surrounding The Manitoba Museum’s collections, the Conservators undertake a program of regular monitoring. Once each month, a Conservator goes through all areas where collections are stored or displayed with a hand held thermohygrometer, which measures temperature and relative humidity (RH) via sensors in an attached probe.   Ideally, temperature and RH should be as stable as possible, allowing for some drift as…

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Christmas Fruits

Botanically speaking, a fruit is the plant part that contains seeds.  Before the invention of modern refrigeration, fresh fruit was only eaten when it was in season.  To enjoy fruits at other times of the year, preservation was necessary.  Drying fruits by burying them in sand or sun-drying them is the oldest method, beginning in ancient Egypt over 6,000 years ago.  Plums, currants and cranberries are all native to northern…

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Christmas Spices

The spices we typically associate with Christmas baking, like nutmeg and cinnamon, all grow in tropical areas.  Before the shipping of spices became reliable, they were rare and expensive in Europe, and for this reason used only for special occasions like weddings and holidays.  Many traditional Christmas desserts are made with a variety of exotic spices.  Mulled beverages, like wassail, are prepared by heating the liquid with a mixture of…

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If we think about it at all, most of us tend to consider dung (poop) as a substance to be gotten rid of, not something to be collected and treasured. And that is the case for at least 99.9% of it, but of course the situation is different when the dung is in fossilized form, and when it comes from giant, long-extinct creatures. Fossilized dinosaur dung, or coprolites, has been studied for…

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Christmas Nuts

For many people, roasting chestnuts and snacking on fresh nuts is a Christmas tradition.  Besides humans, the only other animals that can effectively crack the shells of nuts are those with strong, chisel-like teeth, namely rodents.  Rodents, like squirrels, harvest nuts in the fall and store them for the cold winter months just like we do.  Nuts are a good source of protein and contain many vitamins, minerals and healthy…

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