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Wherein we explore the oft forgotten wet specimen collection.


The Brain Scoop is written and hosted by:
Emily Graslie

Created by and Guest Starring:
Hank Green

Directed, Edited, and Scored by:
Michael Aranda

Translations provided by Martina Šafusová, Michaela Medková, Rachel Prunty, John-Alan Pascoe, Luca Vittone, Filipe Valcovo, Nur Iskandar Nuruddin, Anne-Sophie Caron, Reika Komatsubara, Ulla Aeschbacher, Evan Liao, Linamaría Gallegos Mayorga, Ann-K. Baumbach, João Henrique Diniz, Ott Maidre, Seth Bergenholtz, Adam Wojniłło, and Joyce Ong. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

[Brain Scoop theme plays]

So yeah, if you walk across campus and then you walk through a locked janitor's closet and then you walk through a locked staircase that has a cage of wire around it and then you walk past some high powered electrical equipment and then you walk up some stairs and down some stairs and you get into this labyrinth-y place. 

So I mentioned that our main collections room has 21,000 specimens. Um, our museum collection actually consists of 24,500 specimens. The other 3,500 are right here. Probably wondering why these things are down here and why we don't have them in a classroom or on display or in our museum and it's because they were moved to make room for... an office space, 'cause they were in an office space, and we've been trying to get them out of here for about seven years now. We have all kinds of stuff down here. We have probably 2,500 fish and a couple hundred lizards and reptiles and snakes and even some mammals in jars. This on, this is a fetal elk. In a jar. And we have sharks over there. A lot of this stuff, I don't even know what we have because it's been down here since I've been working at the museum. Some of the things are like the first reported case of this species found in Montana. We had some freshwater jellyfish down here but they got moved.


 Special Guest Fun Time

Hank: Hi, this is Hank, and I've just realized that I'm in danger of death. 

Emily: Well, a lot of these old specimens that were preserved in glass jars are preserved in leaded glass jars, which if you don't know what that is, it's a very brittle kind of glass that hasn't lasted over, like, the last hundred years or so. 

Hank: So, like, it gets old and it becomes less sturdy.

Emily: Yes, exactly. And- 

Hank: This is an old jar.

Emily: This is very old jar.

Hank: I saw it and I thought it was really cool looking 'cause it's sealed with wax and I was like "I'm gonna pick that up! Because ehh"

Emily: 'Cause it is cool, but I also know from talking with someone who works at the Smithsonian that unfortunately a museum technician actually lost their life when they were carrying a large round jar that was made out of leaded glass and it exploded in their arms. And this person was eviscerated with shards of leaded glass that immediately became... watch were you step... immediately be, um, the formaldehyde and all the toxins got right, right in there, just right in there. And, uh, unfortunately, that person

Hank: Died.

Emily: Died.

Hank: This is the sort of thing that I feel like would go on eBay for a lot of money. 

Emily: Yeah, I, this is the kind of thing that probably shouldn't ever be on eBay. Because I'd wonder how they got it. *laughs* But, yeah. 

Hank: Let's put it down. ah! yuegh! That thing was alive. It's not not- creepy down here. 

Emily: And this is an old jar. That's what I know. It's rusting on the top. 

Hank: Ooh, don't blow on anything.

Emily: Sorry. 

Hank: Dude, string beans. 

Emily: This is a sea slug from 1948 or that could be an arbitrary date. And bats. 

Hank: Oh, bats! Oh they're so fuzzy!

Emily: These are the cuties. These are pack rats. They are from Rainbow Falls Park, 6 miles east, Rossport, Highway 17, Ontario, Canada. "Ontawrio"? What am I? Ontawrio! 20th of June 1965. 

Hank: Do they just last forever? 

Emily: They can, yeah. 

Hank: What do you have to do to keep them preserved, like keep, like what maintenance do you have to do on a wet prepped specimen? 

Emily: If they're done correctly, not much. And this is actually a really old technique. Boyle from Boyle's Law

Hank: Boyle's Law, Boyle? 

Emily: Boyle's Law Boyle was the one who, um figured out that distillation process and then he realize that it was really good for preserving tissues of all kinds of things. Um, if you can imagine, like the Mutter Museum, they have, like, people in jars. It's spelled like m-u-t-t-e-r.

Hank: *shakes head*

Emily: So this is an old technique that used to be used to preserve human organs and that kind of things for scientific research. 

Hank: You wanna get drunk and you don't have a lot of options. 

Emily: uh.. I...
Hank: Rat booze.
Emily: This is not recommended. Although we do joke about it a lot. 

Hank: ok

Emily: Like, someone's a little loopy and I ask the curator, like "You been drinking the alcohol specimens today, Dave? You gettin' a little... Having a sip of the pack rat juice?" 

*classical music break with Dave*

Emily: eh, ah, there we go. Woah, this one is super sealed. There we go. Oh! Tiny jars. 

Hank: Tiny jars. 

Emily: There're all kinds of tiny jars in here. 

Hank: That one's clean on the inside. 

Emily: I found a two headed fish down here once. What do you got there? 

Hank: I have a tiny turtle. 

Emily: Aww, it is really cute. Kinda looks like a snapping turtle. 

Hank: I kinda wanna bring out this baby deer but I'm afraid to pick it up. 

Emily: I think there are two in here. And you know, if you're wondering how you get a fetal animal in this stage of development, um, a lot of them were actually cut out of the wombs of roadkill females. Oh, this one's all dried up. Oh look at these are little minnows. 

Hank: Oh, like, and it's paste at the bottom. 

Emily: Ew, minnow paste. 

Hank: What would the ideal situation for this stuff be? Obviously no this.

Emily: No, obviously not this. Um, ideally, I would like to put 'em in a museum, where people can see 'em. 

Hank: Show 'em off? 

Emily: And show 'em off. And put fancy shining lights behind them. Wouldn't that be fun? This'd be so cool. That's what I want to do. Thanks for watching the Brain Scoop. I'm Emily. 

Hank: I'm Hank. See ya next time. 

Emily: See ya. 

[end screen, theme] still has brains on it.