When large fossils arrive in FossiLab or in our behind-the-scenes lab, they often are embedded in matrix (rock or loose sediment) and only partly visible. Staff and volunteer preparators ready them for scientific study by using a variety of tools to remove the matrix. They also stabilize the fossils with consolidants and adhesives. This step is critical because most fossils are cracked or broken, and removal of the matrix without stabilization can cause them to fall apart. To prepare the tiniest fossils, called microfossils, volunteers may use a process called "washing and picking" to clean away the matrix and isolate the fossils.
Tools commonly used in fossil preparation are shown in the photo on the right. The choice of tool is determined by the condition of the fossil and the characteristics of the matrix. Scroll down for descriptions of how the tools are used.
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