Moa skeleton installation at Leeds City Museum


[Click on photos to enlarge]

At the beginning of March I returned to Leeds City Museum for the installation of a display of a  skeleton of a Heavy-footed Moa, Pachyornis elephantopus. This was the culmination of  the organisational work of Curator Clare Brown and the team at Leeds, and the work I’d done on  placement at Leeds Museums Discovery Centre at the beginning of December.

Moving the moa

The moa had to be moved about 2 miles from the Discovery Centre to the Museum.  During February, Head Technician Dave Hudson built a frame around the skeleton, and Conservator Emma Bowron packed it in.  However, some parts, such as the delicate rib cage, were left free to move, as restricting them may have put more strain on them.


Bands secured the skeleton to the frame. The feet and head were removed and packed separately.


Into the van.


Arrival at Leeds City Museum.


Through the cafe doors – just!


Technicians remove the frame.

Meanwhile, Natalie Raw, Curator of Costumes and Textiles, removed the dress which had occupied the case (seen below on the right), and carefully packed it away.  The case was vacuumed and its glass cleaned.



Relief all round when the back image, side panel and label arrive at lunchtime.


Intense concentration as Dave explains our roles in the crucial move  into the case.


Its always good to avoid possible embarrassment by judicial labelling – this is the right foot!


Replacing the skull.
(Photo: Clare Brown)

Finally, Clare adjusted the lighting to highlight the skull, which could easily have looked insignificant compared to the massive lower body.  It was amazing what a difference it made!



Peering out at its new home, past the side panel about Curator Henry Denny who arranged its acquisition in 1868.

Backdrop image

After considering several options, the final choice of backdrop image aptly places the skeleton amongst other exhibits in Philosophical Hall, Leeds, where Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society displayed their natural history objects (including the moa).   It also compliments the display about the Society which is opposite the moa display.

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“The elephant came from Wombwell’s Menagerie in 1841, the walrus, from Stead & Simpson’s in 1868, and the Irish elk in the foreground [image is cropped] from Lough Gur, near Limerick, in 1847.”

(Of Curiosities and Rare things, pub. The Friends of Leeds City Museums 1989.)


My thanks to Clare Brown and all the staff at Leeds Discovery Centre and Leeds City Museum for this great experience in display and interpretation, and for permission to take photographs.