Photographing Phar Lap's heart
In May 2010 Phar Lap's heart was photographed by our photography team for use in the Landmarks gallery. The heart was too fragile to be moved to the Museum's off-site collection storage facility, so it was kept in the Museum's on-site conservation lab after being deinstalled from the Nation gallery in February 2010. The heart has been on display in Landmarks since it opened in 2011.
The liquid that the heart sits in is a mixture of glycerol and de-ionised water known as Wentworth Solution. A small amount of other chemicals have been added to inhibit fungal or bacterial growth, and to keep the pH level between 6.5 and 7.5.
Patrya Kay, a conservator who has worked on the heart, explains that the solution is yellowing because coloured material, most likely to be red blood cells, are leaching out of the specimen. This is typical of mammalian material preserved in fluid. Because the heart has been in a preservative solution for so many years the discolouration is comparatively slight.
All photography by Isa Menzies, unless otherwise stated.
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Setting up for the photo shoot. Museum photographer George Serras was assisted by Katie Green and conservator Peter Bucke to capture all four sides of the heart in its display vitrine.
This close-up of the heart shows where conservators have repaired torn tissue. The heart is very vulnerable to movement and vibrations, and great care must be taken when moving it.